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Research

New Method for Hair Regeneration

Angela Christiano Ph.D. (Columbia University) and Colin Jahoda Ph.D. (Durham University) discuss the findings in this study, obstacles that still lie ahead, and the implications of this study for clinical applications.

At the base of the hair follicle there is a specialized cell compartment called the dermal papilla. Forty years ago it was first demonstrated that rodent dermal papilla cells can induce new hair growth when they are removed from the follicle and transplanted into new recipient skin. Importantly, the cells retain this hair growth inducing potential even after they are expanded in number by growth in cell culture. For regenerative medicine purposes, researchers have been trying for many years to demonstrate that the same properties hold true in human dermal papilla cells, however the catch-22 is that human dermal papilla cells quickly lose their inducing potential when grown in culture.

Recently, as a result of a collaborative effort between Durham and Columbia Universities, Claire Higgins et al., (2013) reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), demonstrating for the first time that cultured human dermal papilla cells can induce new hair growth in intact human skin. These findings have many implications, not only in dermatology, but in the tissue and regenerative medicine fields as a whole.

Claire A. Higgins, James C. Chen, Jane E. Cerise, Colin A. B. Jahoda, and Angela M. Christiano (2013) Microenvironmental reprogramming by three-dimensional culture enables dermal papilla cells to induce de novo human hair-follicle growth. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1309970110

Also reported in the New York Times.

Welcome to New Faculty

Dr. Vishal Anil Patel, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at CUMC, has joined our department July 1, 2013 to expand the clinical and educational activities in the area of dermatologic surgery including Mohs micrographic surgery. Dr. Patel will rejuvenate our efforts to provide comprehensive care to high risk skin cancer patients such as solid organ transplant recipients, patients with leukemia and lymphoma, and those living with HIV. Additionally, he has a special interest in Global Health and has initiated a Global Health Dermatology Program to provide dermatologic care to patients in parts of Africa and South America. To make an appointment with Dr. Patel please contact his office at 212-305-3625.

Research

New Stem Cell Population Linked to Sense of Touch

Our sense of touch is critical for numerous fundamental behaviors such as eating, communicating and survival. In our skin resides a population of specialized sensory cells called Merkel cells that perceive our sense of gentle touch and discriminate different textures and shapes. This video discusses recent findings by David Owens, Ph,D the Owens laboratory published in Cell Reports (Doucet et al., 3:1759-1765, 2013) outlining their discovery of a new stem cell population that is critical for our sense of touch as they maintain a steady pool of Merkel cells in the skin. These findings may hold significance for age-related loss in tactile acuity and pathological skin conditions such as Merkel cell carcinoma.

David Owens, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Pathology and Cell Biology and Yanne Doucet, Staff Associate in the Department of Dermatology, discuss the dynamics of a stem cell population in the skin epidermis responsible for Merkel cell homeostasis and required to maintain proper innervation of the touch dome.

Research

Leonard C. Harber Professorship of Dermatology

The Department of Dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center has been a recognized center of excellence in the field of dermatology for more than a century. The recent establishment of the Leonard C. Harber Professorship of Dermatology and the appointment of its first incumbent, Donald V. Belsito, M.D., has given the department a powerful new tool to enhance our ability to care for patients, discover new scientific advances, and train the medical leaders of tomorrow.

The professorship celebrates the legacy of Leonard C. Harber, M.D., professor emeritus and chair of dermatology from 1973 to 1989. A distinguished research investigator and one of the leading academic dermatologists of his generation, Dr. Harber pioneered innovative diagnostic and therapeutic techniques now widely used in managing patients with photosensitivity diseases. During his tenure as chair, he established one of the world’s foremost centers dedicated to the phototherapy of skin disorders such as psoriasis.

The Leonard C. Harber Professorship of Dermatology has been made possible through the generosity of the Harber family and other dedicated supporters. The professorship’s first incumbent, Dr. Belsito, is an internationally recognized expert in immunodermatology, contact dermatitis, and occupational dermatology. Dr. Belsito will play a key role in the department’s efforts to train world-class dermatologists, make new scientific discoveries, and translate medical advances into new treatments that benefit patients.

Columbia’s Department of Dermatology remains a leader in managing all aspects of skin and its diseases thanks to the generous support of its friends and partners.

For more information about the Department of Dermatology, please contact Suzanne Altshuler, director of development, at sma2172@columbia.edu or (212) 342-4605.

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