Located within the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai University you can find one of the most established hair follicle research labs in the country. The lab bears the name of its principal investigator, Michael Rendl, MD. Michael hails from Austria where he received his medical degree at the University of Vienna. After completing post-doctoral hair follicle research in Elaine Fuchs lab at Rockerfeller University Michael joined Mount Sinai in 2008.
Below is a cited image from the lab’s research page. This study involved removing the gene Bmpr1a from DP cells that were grafted with keratinocytes into the back of mice. The DP cells that had the Bmpr1a gene knocked-out did not grow hair.
The Rendl Lab specializes in the study of hair follicle morphogenesis. Its researchers seek to discover how dermal papillae cells act as instructive niche cells for hair follicle stem cells; essentially they are studying the step-by-step formation of a hair follicle. They’re doing a good job of it too, which is apparent from their publications library.
The most recent paper published by Rendl & Co is titled “An Integrated Transcriptome Atlas of Embryonic Hair Follicle Progenitors, Their Niche, and the Developing Skin.” The content is as impressive as the title sounds. Here’s a quote from the abstract of the study “Our study provides an over-arching view of signaling within the entire embryonic skin and captures a molecular snapshot of HF pro-genitors and their niche.” In-depth research indeed.
Some will remember that Aaron Gardner, formerly of Dr. Colin Jahoda’s lab, spoke highly of the work being done at the Rendl Lab when he made a quick appearance on an online hair forum a little over a year ago. A quote from Gardner: “See the Rendl labs work, they are attempting to go direct from DF(dermal fibroblasts) already, very exciting work.” Somehow the Rendl lab has remained low-key in the online hair-research discussion world. There seems to be big plans at the lab, and one of them has recently been revealed on their website.
Hold on a second, if you expected this to be some kind of topical product that the Rendl Lab created, it’s not. But, it’s still awesome so check it out. The link to Hair-GEL was added to the Rendl home page about a month ago. As far as I can tell, Hair-GEL is a searchable database of the known gene expressions that are associated with the formation of a hair follicle. The page contains a graph depicting the different biological sections of a hair follicle and a bar graph that indicates the levels of the genes in those areas. A concept like this will surely prove valuable to other researchers in the hair game. It is progressive work, the likes of which have not yet been seen. And remember, this is only the beginning.
I can already imagine the #1 question in everyone’s mind. Are they working on something to go into clinical trials soon? That’s a topic that has not been covered by the lab, so quite frankly, we don’t know. Obviously, their research has very ambitious and thoughtful goals, so we can assume it is their intention to develop something relevant.
It’s worth mentioning that Carlos Clavel is a member of the Rendl Lab Alumni. Carlos has gone on to be project leader of the Hair and Pigmentation Development program at the IBN in Singapore. I’ve covered other progressive hair follicle work being done at the IBN here. It seems to be quite the progressive institute.
It’s my opinion that there are not too many people on the planet with a greater understanding of the hair follicle than Michael Rendl. I’m hoping that sooner or sooner we will be hearing some news about this lab taking their work to the next level.