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Methods Mol Biol. 2009;482:215-32. doi: 10.1007/978-1-59745-060-7_14.

Isolation and culture of epithelial stem cells.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA.


In the skin, epithelial stem cells in the hair follicle contribute not only to the generation of a new hair follicle with each hair cycle, but also to the repair of the epidermis during wound healing. When these stem cells are isolated and expanded in culture, they can give rise to hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and epidermis when combined with dermis and grafted back onto Nude mice. In this chapter, we provide a method for isolating hair follicle epithelial stem cells from the skin of adult mice using immunofluorescent labeling to allow for the specific purification of epithelial stem cells by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Notably, this method relies exclusively on cell surface markers, making it suitable for use with any strain of mouse and at various stages of the hair cycle. We also provide a detailed protocol for culturing epithelial stem cells isolated by FACS, allowing for analysis using a wide variety of culture assays. Additionally, we provide notes on using cultured cells for specific applications, such as viral manipulation and grafting. These techniques should be useful for directly evaluating stem cell function in normal mice and in mice with skin defects.

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