Aim: To develop a method by which human hair follicle dermal papilla (DP) cells can be expanded in vitro while preserving their hair-inductive potential for use in follicular cell implantation, a cellular therapy for the treatment of hair loss.
Materials & methods: DP cells were isolated from scalp hair follicles in biopsies from human donors. DP cell cultures were established under conditions that preserved their hair-inductive potential and allowed for significant expansion. The hair-inductive potential of cells cultured for approximately 36 doublings was tested in an in vivo flap-graft model. In some experiments, DiI was used to label cells prior to grafting.
Results: Under the culture conditions developed, cultures established from numerous donors reproducibly resulted in an expansion that averaged approximately five population doublings per passage. Furthermore, the cells consistently induced hair formation in an in vivo graft assay. Grafted DP cells appeared in DP structures of newly formed hairs, as well as in the dermal sheath and in the dermis surrounding follicles. Induced hair follicles persisted and regrew after being plucked 11 months after grafting.
Conclusion: A process for the propagation of human DP cells has been developed that provides significant expansion of cells and maintenance of their hair-inductive capability, overcoming a major technical obstacle in the development of follicular cell implantation as a treatment for hair loss.