Human hair follicle organ culture: theory, application and perspectives

Exp Dermatol. 2015 Dec;24(12):903-11. doi: 10.1111/exd.12836.


For almost a quarter of a century, ex vivo studies of human scalp hair follicles (HFs) have permitted major advances in hair research, spanning diverse fields such as chronobiology, endocrinology, immunology, metabolism, mitochondrial biology, neurobiology, pharmacology, pigmentation and stem cell biology. Despite this, a comprehensive methodological guide to serum-free human HF organ culture (HFOC) that facilitates the selection and analysis of standard HF biological parameters and points out both research opportunities and pitfalls to newcomers to the field is still lacking. The current methods review aims to close an important gap in the literature and attempts to promote standardisation of human HFOC. We provide basic information outlining the establishment of HFOC through to detailed descriptions of the analysis of standard read-out parameters alongside practical examples. The guide closes by pointing out how serum-free HFOC can be utilised optimally to obtain previously inaccessible insights into human HF biology and pathology that are of interest to experimental dermatologists, geneticists, developmental biologists and (neuro-) endocrinologists alike and by highlighting novel applications of the model, including gene silencing and gene expression profiling of defined, laser capture-microdissected HF compartments.

Keywords: human hair follicle; organ culture; practical application; skin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Hair Color
  • Hair Follicle / anatomy & histology
  • Hair Follicle / growth & development*
  • Hair Follicle / physiology
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Organ Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Organ Culture Techniques / trends


  • Culture Media, Serum-Free