Hair follicle stem cells sustain growth and cycling of the hair follicle and are located in the permanent portion of the follicle known as the bulge. In this issue of the JCI, Ohyama et al. report the characterization of global gene expression patterns of human hair follicle stem cells after their isolation using sophisticated laser capture techniques to microdissect out bulge cells. They discovered a panel of cell surface markers useful for isolating living hair follicle stem cells, a finding with potential therapeutic implications since isolated stem cells in mice can generate new hair follicles when transplanted to other mice. The findings of Ohyama et al. validate the use of the mouse for studying hair follicle biology but also underscore critical differences between mouse and human stem cell markers. In particular, CD34, which delineates hair follicle stem cells in the mouse, is not expressed by human hair follicle stem cells, while CD200 is expressed by stem cells in both species. Ultimately, this information will assist efforts to develop cell-based and cell-targeted treatments for skin disease.
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