The dermal papilla (DP) is a specialised mesenchymal component of the hair follicle (HF) that plays key roles in HF morphogenesis and regeneration. Current technical difficulties in preparing trichogenic human DP cells could be overcome by the use of highly proliferative and plastic human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). In this study, hiPSCs were differentiated into induced mesenchymal cells (iMCs) with a bone marrow stromal cell phenotype. A highly proliferative and plastic LNGFR(+)THY-1(+) subset of iMCs was subsequently programmed using retinoic acid and DP cell activating culture medium to acquire DP properties. The resultant cells (induced DP-substituting cells [iDPSCs]) exhibited up-regulated DP markers, interacted with human keratinocytes to up-regulate HF related genes, and when co-grafted with human keratinocytes in vivo gave rise to fibre structures with a hair cuticle-like coat resembling the hair shaft, as confirmed by scanning electron microscope analysis. Furthermore, iDPSCs responded to the clinically used hair growth reagent, minoxidil sulfate, to up-regulate DP genes, further supporting that they were capable of, at least in part, reproducing DP properties. Thus, LNGFR(+)THY-1(+) iMCs may provide material for HF bioengineering and drug screening for hair diseases.
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