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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 Sep 15;89(18):8764-8.

Hair shaft elongation, follicle growth, and spontaneous regression in long-term, gelatin sponge-supported histoculture of human scalp skin.

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AntiCancer, Inc., San Diego, CA 92110.


In order to better understand the molecular mechanisms of human hair growth control and to test hair growth-modulatory drugs, appropriate in vitro models are required. Here, we report the long-term growth, shaft elongation, and spontaneous regression of human hair follicles in histoculture of intact scalp skin. Human scalp skin with abundant hair follicles in various stages of the hair growth cycle was grown for up to 40 days in a gelatin sponge-supported histoculture system at the air/liquid interface. Isolated follicles placed in the gelatin-sponge matrix also supported hair shaft elongation, with the hair follicle cells remaining proliferative and viable for very long periods. Hair shaft elongation occurred mainly during the first 10 days of histoculture of both intact skin and isolated follicles. However, hair follicles were viable and follicle keratinocytes continued to incorporate [3H]thymidine for up to several weeks after shaft elongation had ceased as shown by fluorescent-dye double staining, measured by confocal laser scanning microscopy, and by histological autoradiography of [3H]thymidine incorporation, respectively. Hair follicles could continue their cycle in histoculture; for example, apparent spontaneous catagen induction was observed both histologically and by the actual regression of the hair follicle. In addition, vellus follicles were shown to be viable at day 40 after initiation of culture. In the histocultured human scalp we demonstrated the association of mast cells with anagen follicles and macrophages with catagen follicles, suggesting a role of these cells in the hair cycle. This histoculture technique should serve as a powerful tool for future hair research in the human system as well as a screening assay for compounds that can perturb the hair cycle.

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