Human Hair Follicle and Scalp Skin Organ Culture: Highly Clinically Relevant Models for testing your Hair care Product by Monasterium Laboratory

21 June 2021

Monasterium Laboratory Skin & Hair Research Solutions GmbH provides state-of-the-art pre-clinical human skin models for cosmeceutical application, including hair follicle and scalp skin ex vivo models as tools to explore the effects of hair care products.

Since the discovery that microdissected human hair follicles continue to grow ex vivo and to produce the hair shaft at similar rate to what can be seen in vivo, the human hair follicle organ culture has become the model of choice for testing the impact of cosmeceuticals on hair follicle physiology. This assay is based on the spontaneous regression of anagen VI HFs into catagen during the organ culture within the timeframe of 7-10 days.

Therefore, the traditional so called “Philpott model”, in which organ-cultured hair follicles are microdissected below the bulge, is mainly used to investigate the impact of test agents on hair growth and on key signaling pathways involved in the control of anagen-catagen transition. Furthermore, given that hair follicles continue also to produce melanin as long as they remain in anagen IV, this assay can be used also to test the effect of cosmeceuticals on hair follicle pigmentation. Using different microdissection techniques optimized at Monasterium Laboratory, it is now possible also to culture full-length hair follicles, so to investigate the effect on hair follicle stem cells located into the bulge, including melanocyte stem cells, and their progeny.

Advances have been made at Monasterium Laboratory in isolating and culturing telogen HFs, inviting new studies on the telogen-to-anagen transition. However, the major shortcoming of the hair follicle organ culture is that the actives need to be systemically delivered into the aqueous culture medium, therefore challenges are encountered for highly hydrophobic assets. In this regard, scalp skin organ culture can become very useful, as test substances can be delivered not only into the medium, mimicking systemic application, but also applied topically.

The scalp skin organ culture is the closest ex vivo model that recapitulates in vivo situation and additionally allows the study of interactions of HFs with their surrounding environment, alongside the impact on hair growth, pigmentation, and hair follicle stem cells activities, etc. The main advantages of the HFs or scalp skin organ culture model is that these experiments are performed using serum-free medium, thereby being animal free, a fundamental requirement for cosmetic testing. These assays have been significantly optimized at Monasterium Laboratory for a wide range of applications allowing a variety of instructive functional and mechanistic studies, and to mimic pathological conditions of the HF, e.g. HF immune privilege collapse, and epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the bulge. In addition, Monasterium Laboratory has access to ethically-sourced patient scalp tissue, and it is now possible also to culture microdissected HFs, follicular unit extraction, or small punches from affected scalp of patients suffering from hair loss.

Therefore, these assays are ideal testing tools not only for developing claims for seasonal or aging-related hair loss, but also for hair growth disorders, such as androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata, scarring alopecia and hirsutism, which could benefit from adjuvant cosmetic treatments. Using gene silencing techniques, it is also possible to knock-down the expression of genes in microdissected HFs or scalp skin organ culture, in order to identify the mechanism of action of hair care product-technology, and develop storytelling for consumer communication. Given the low number of HFs or scalp skin available for these experiments from cosmetic surgeries (i.e. face-lifts or hair transplants), the preferred method of analysis is typically histochemistry or immuno-staining, associated with quantitative (immuno-) histomorphometry.

However, at Monasterium Laboratory, we have further optimized techniques to combine in situ analysis with targeted (qRT-PCR/nanostring), or whole transcriptome, analysis (RNAseq) using the entire tissue, microdissected material, or laser-dissected cell populations from HFs or scalp skin. Given the increased interest in improving hair shaft quality with cosmetic and nutraceutical treatments, Monasterium Laboratory has teamed up with TRI Princeton to optimize the hair follicle organ culture model to allow the simultaneous testing on the “living” hair follicle and “dead” hair shafts.

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Monasterium Laboratory
Skin & Hair Research Solutions GmbH
Nano-Bioanalytik Zentrum
Mendelstraße 17
D-48149 Münster, Germany

Phone:  +49 (0) 251 93263-079

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