Can hair follicles make nerves?
The hair follicle is an amazing structure. Above the surface of the skin, we see only the hair fiber which is composed mostly of a non-living substance called keratin.
Nestin: A key marker for stem cells
It's only when you look below the surface of the skin, that you begin to see the complexity of the hair follicle. Just a short distance under the skin, within a part of the hair follicle called the bulge ... there exists cells that have the potential to become neurons, muscle cells and pigment producing cells. Scientists can now easily identify these cells because they contain a protein called 'nestin.'
For example, if these special hair follicle cells are transplanted (i.e. into a mouse) they can become blood vessels and neural tissue. Further research is needed to understand the full potential of the hair follicle.
Hoffman RM. The potential of nestin-expressing hair follicle stem cells in regenerative medicine. Expert Opin Biol Ther 2007
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299