Hair follicle morphogenesis is triggered by reciprocal interactions between hair follicle germ (HFG) epithelial and mesenchymal layers. Here, we developed a method for large-scale preparation of HFGs in vitro via self-organization of cells. We mixed mouse epidermal and mouse/human mesenchymal cells in suspension and seeded them in microwells of a custom-designed array plate. Over a 3-day culture period, cells initially formed a randomly distributed single cell aggregate and then spatially separated from each other, exhibiting typical HFG morphological features. These self-sorted hair follicle germs (ssHFGs) were shown to be capable of efficient hair-follicle and shaft generation upon intracutaneous transplantation into the backs of nude mice. This finding facilitated the large-scale preparation of approximately 5000 ssHFGs in a microwell-array chip made of oxygen-permeable silicone. We demonstrated that the integrity of the oxygen supply through the bottom of the silicone chip was crucial to enabling both ssHFG formation and subsequent hair shaft generation. Finally, spatially aligned ssHFGs on the chip were encapsulated into a hydrogel and simultaneously transplanted into the back skin of nude mice to preserve their intervening spaces, resulting in spatially aligned hair follicle generation. This simple ssHFG preparation approach is a promising strategy for improving current hair-regenerative medicine techniques.
Keywords: Hair follicle germ; Hair regenerative medicine; Microfabrication; Oxygen supply; Polydimethylsiloxane.
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