Hair follicle stem cells in the epithelial bulge are responsible for the continual regeneration of the hair follicle during cycling. The bulge cells reside in a niche composed of dermal cells. The dermal compartment of the hair follicle consists of the dermal papilla and dermal sheath. Interactions between hair follicle epithelial and dermal cells are necessary for hair follicle morphogenesis during development and in hair reconstitution assays. Dermal papilla and dermal sheath cells express specific markers and possess distinctive morphology and behavior in culture. These cells can induce hair follicle differentiation in epithelial cells and are required in hair reconstitution assays either in the form of intact tissue, dissociated freshly prepared cells or cultured cells. This review will focus on hair follicle dermal cells since most therapeutic efforts to date have concentrated on this aspect of the hair follicle, with the idea that enriching hair-inductive dermal cell populations and expanding their number by culture while maintaining their properties, will establish an efficient hair reconstitution assay that could eventually have therapeutic implications.
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