Detailed information about promotion of hair follicle stem cells to adipocyte cells

Promotion into Adipocytes


An adipocyte cell is basically a fat storage cell. In other words it is this cell which is responsible for storing excess fats and then making them available for use as energy upon demand. These cells are important as they help the body maintain proper energy balance, store calories in the form of lipids, mobilize energy sources in response to hormonal stimulation, and command changes by signal secretions.

Stem cells

All multi-cellular organisms have stem cells including us. Specifically the stem cells we have in our bodies are called “adult” stem cells to differentiate them from the use of controversial “embryonic” stem cells.

Stem cells are unique as they have the ability to be programmed to perform different tissue functions irrespective of their origin and renew themselves through mitotic cell division. This property of stem cells means that it would be possible to take any stem cell from a patient and influence that cell in specific ways to get desired function.

As stem cells can be developed into many different cell types in the body, they serve as a sort of repair system for the body, dividing without limit (theoretically) to replenish other cells till that person or animal dies. The new cell produced with each division may remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

Given the importance of adipocytes as mentioned above, a way to produce these cells the stem cell way was explored and it was found that embryonic stem cells, derived from the inner cell mass of mouse blastocysts, can be maintained in a state much like adipocytes in vitro.

Not just that, this differentiation of embryonic stem cells into adipocytes will equip the researchers and scientists with a model to understand the role of genes expressed during the adipocyte development program and to identify new adipogenic regulatory genes.

Scope of hair follicle cells as stem cells for differentiation into adipocytes

In the context of stem cell biology, hair follicle epithelial cells have been the subject of intense study in relation to skin renewal and tumor biology. Melanocyte stem cell activity in the follicle has also been the subject of investigation. Crucially, for research purposes, hair follicles contain discrete populations of interacting cells that are clustered in defined sites and can be isolated, cultured and then experimentally manipulated.

During research it was found that the two main dermal cell populations in the adult follicle, the dermal papilla (DP) and the dermal sheath (DS) have rare inductive powers, and scientists now have greater understanding of the molecular events governing this behavior.

Unique to the hair follicle, dynamic epithelial–mesenchymal crosstalk persists from embryonic development into adulthood, as seen during the course of normal follicle growth and cycling. Thus, the hair follicle is emerging as a major developmental model, encompassing paradigms of epithelial–mesenchymal interactions and epithelial stem cell behavior and highly accessible in the adult body. However, up to now, the follicle dermis has been largely overlooked as a source of adult stem cells.

It was suggested that follicle dermis acts as an important stem cell repository for repair of the dermis after skin wounding, and more recently, it was demonstrated that there is haematopoietic stem cell activity in the follicle dermis.

Based on these data, and because of unusual behavior observed in some of hair follicle dermal cell cultures, the capacity of hair follicle DP and DS cells from rat vibrissa follicles to undergo adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation was investigated in primary culture using supplemented media.

It was found that in hair follicle dermal cultures diverse stem cell activities exist, including phenomena reminiscent of the neural-type differentiation seen with skin dermis besides these follicular cells undergoing adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation under suitable conditions.

This means that, just like the mouse embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cells in hair follicle can be made to transform into different types of cells. The adult stem cells of hair follicles can change into adipocytes and they have also been shown to change into osteocytes and blood cells as well. This flexibility of the hair follicle adult stem cells suggests that they could be used for more than just making new hair follicles. Perhaps one day they could be used to make other types of tissue as well.