A human folliculoid microsphere assay for exploring epithelial- mesenchymal interactions in the human hair follicle

Blanka Havlickova, Tamás Bíró, Alessandra Mescalchin, Miriam Tschirschmann, Hans Mollenkopf, Albrecht Bettermann, Paolo Pertile, Roland Lauster, Enikö Bodó, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The search for more effective drugs for the management of common hair growth disorders remains a top priority, both for clinical dermatology and industry. In this pilot study, we report a pragmatic organotypic assay for basic and applied hair research. The patented technique produces microdroplets, which generate human folliculoid microspheres (HFMs), consisting of human dermal papilla fibroblasts and outer root sheath keratinocytes within an extracellular matrix that simulates elements of the hair follicle mesenchyme. Studying a number of different markers (for example, proliferation, apoptosis, cytokeratin-6, versican), we show that these HFMs, cultured under well-defined conditions, retain several essential epithelial-mesenchymal interactions characteristic for human scalp hair follicle. Selected, recognized hair growth-modulatory agents modulate these parameters in a manner that suggests that HFMs allow the standardized preclinical assessment of test agents on relevant human hair growth markers under substantially simplified in vitro conditions that approximate the in vivo situation. Furthermore, we show by immunohistochemistry, reverse transcriptase-PCR, and DNA microarray techniques that HFMs also offer a useful discovery tool for the identification of target genes and their products for candidate hair drugs. HFM thus represent an instructive modern experimental and screening tool for basic and applied hair research in the human system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)972-983
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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