Scientists believe they may have found a new way to reverse baldness and treat conditions like alopecia.
The discovery could lead to new treatments for baldness
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have identified stem cells or master cells in the hair follicles of mice.
They found that these cells grow into hair follicles and produce hair when transplanted into skin.
Writing in Nature Biotechnology, they said the discovery could lead to new treatments for humans.
The researchers found certain genes were activated in the stem cells
that were not activated in other hair follicle or skin cells.
They are now planning further research to identify these genes in humans.
They said developing drugs to affect these genes could lead to new ways of controlling hair growth.
"By defining these molecular markers, we will be able to isolate human stem cells from hair follicles," Dr George Cotsarelis, one of those involved in the study, told Reuters.
While the discovery could lead to new treatments for baldness and conditions like alopecia, the researchers believe it may also help burn victims.
"One problem with a burn is that the wound is never covered with hair follicles," said Dr Cotsarelis.
"These cells have that capability so if we can isolate them and seed them onto a wound we can constitute skin that is more normal than currently possible."
Scientists have long-suspected that hair follicles contained stem cells. However, it has proved difficult to isolate these cells in humans.
This latest study raises hopes that they can now track these genes and identify stem cells in human hair follicles.
"Ultimately, these findings provide potential targets for the treatment of hair loss and other disorders of skin and hair," the researchers wrote.