This strange structure is a developing mouse hair follicle, shown in close-up on the right, embedded in a patch of skin. But it’s not growing on the back of an animal – it’s been created in the lab inside a little ball of stem cells known as an organoid. Scientists can successfully grow organoids from all kinds of tissues, from brain to bowel, but generating the complex multi-layered components of skin and hair has proved tricky. Now researchers have found a way to make skin organoids sprout hairs for the first time. These hairy little balls will be a useful laboratory model for studying hair growth and loss, and could be used for testing drugs that are used on the skin. The next step is to see if the same technique can be used with human stem cells, which could lead to the development of more realistic lab-grown skin for grafts.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.