Spotlight on Research for 2000

September 2000 (historical)

Common Origin Found in Hair, Skin Cells

Hair follicle stem cells can migrate to the skin and develop into new skin cells, according to a recent study co-funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). The discovery, which may have implications for the future treatment of skin cancer, psoriasis, and other skin problems, calls into question the thinking that hair and skin cells have separate origins.

The research, carried out in mice by a team of scientists that included NIAMS grantee Pamela Jensen, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, traced labeled stem cells from the "bulge" area of hair follicles just below the skin through their metamorphosis to cells in the epidermal (outermost) layer of the skin. The resulting evidence of a common stem cell that produces both hair cells and constantly renewing skin cells opens an avenue for possible stem cell therapy for some skin conditions.

The work is reported in the August 18, 2000, issue of the journal Cell. It was a collaborative effort between University of Pennsylvania and New York University scientists, with funding from NIAMS, the National Eye Institute, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.

Taylor G, Lehrer M, Jensen P, Sun T, Lavker R. Involvement of follicular stem cells in forming not only the follicle but also the epidermis. Cell 2000;102:451-461.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leads the Federal medical research effort in arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. The NIAMS supports research and research training throughout the United States, as well as on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, and disseminates health and research information. The National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NAMSIC) is a public service sponsored by the NIAMS that provides health information and information sources. Additional information can be found on the NIAMS Web site at