Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have isolated a new source of adult stem cells that appear to have the potential to differentiate into several cell types.

If their approach to growing these cells can be scaled up and proves to be safe and effective in animal and human studies, it could one day provide the tissue needed by an individual for treating a host of disorders, including peripheral nerve disease, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injury.

Hair follicles are well known to be a source for adult stem cells. Using human embryonic stem cell culture conditions, the researchers isolated and grew a new type of multipotent adult stem cell from scalp tissue obtained from the National Institute of Health’s Cooperative Human Tissue Network.

The mutipotent stem cells grow as masses the investigators call hair spheres. After growing the “raw” cells from the hair spheres in different types of growth factors, the investigators were able to differentiate the stem cells into multiple lineages, including nerve cells, smooth muscle cells, and melanocytes (skin pigment cells).

Overall, the researchers showed that human embryonic stem cell media could be used to isolate and expand a novel population of multipotent adult stem cells from human hair follicles.

Link [www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/jul06/stemfoll.htm]