Q: I heard about the Lgr5 gene being a breakthrough in hair cloning. What’s the latest on that?
A: Many scientists feel that adult stem cells house the answer to cloning (regeneration) of hair follicles. One of the problems of hair cloning, however, is that the cells, once duplicated, “forget” that they are hair follicle cells.
It has recently been discovered that the Lgr5 gene, located in stem cells, appears to contain the “global marker” present in all adult hair follicles. If Lgr5 gene is the “calling card” of the cell, it may carry the cell lineage and shoulder the responsibility of signaling to surrounding stem cells what they are actually supposed to do as they multiply.
Recent experiments have shown that these Lgr5 cells maintain the cells ability to differentiate as hair follicles after many generations of being multiplied in the test tube and, therefore, have the potential of serving as the building blocks of entire new hair follicles. The successful exploitation of this gene would eliminate a major barrier to cloning hair.
Haegebarth A, Clevers H: Wnt signaling, lgr5, and stem cells in the intestine and skin. Am J Pathol. 2009 Mar; 174(3):715-21.
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