Department of Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, 1838 North Guangzhou Avenue, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510515, China.
#These authors contributed equally to this work.
Hair regenerative medicine, a promising strategy for the treatment of hair loss, will likely involve the transplantation of autologous hair follicular stem cells (HFSCs) and dermal papilla cells (DPCs) into regions of hair loss. Cyclic hair regeneration results from the periodic partial activation of HFSCs. However, previous studies have not successfully achieved large-scale HFSC expansion in vitro without the use of feeder cells, with a lack of research focused on regulating HFSC fate for hair follicular (HF) regeneration. Hence, an emerging focus in regenerative medicine is the reconstruction of natural extracellular matrix (ECM) regulatory characteristics using biomaterials to generate cellular microenvironments for expanding stem cells and directing their fate for tissue regeneration.
Methods: HFSCs were coated with gelatin and alginate using layer-by-layer (LbL) self-assembly technology to construct biomimetic ECM for HFSCs; after which transforming growth factor (TGF)-β2 was loaded into the coating layer, which served as a sustained-release signal molecule to regulate the fate of HFSCs both in vitro and in vivo. In vitro experiments (cell culture and siRNA) were employed to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved and in vivo implantation was carried out to evaluate hair induction efficiency.
Results: Nanoscale biomimetic ECM was constructed for individual HFSCs, which allowed for the stable amplification of HFSCs and maintenance of their stem cell properties. TGF-β2 loading into the coating layer induced transformation of CD34+ stem cells into highly proliferating Lgr5+ stem cells, similar to the partial activation of HFSCs in HF regeneration. Thus, LbL coating and TGF-β2 loading partially reconstructed the quiescent and activated states, respectively, of stem cells during HF regeneration, thereby mimicking the microenvironment that regulates stem cell fate for tissue regeneration during HF cycling. Improved HF regeneration was achieved when the two HFSC states were co-transplanted with neonatal mouse dermal cells into nude mice.
Conclusion: This study provides novel methods for the construction of stem cell microenvironments and experimental models of HF regeneration for the treatment of hair loss.
Keywords: hair follicle stem cells, layer-by-layer self-assembly, stem cell microenvironment, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine