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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 643601, 21 pages
Review Article

Morphogenetic Mechanisms in the Cyclic Regeneration of Hair Follicles and Deer Antlers from Stem Cells

1AgResearch Invermay Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 50034, Mosgiel 9053, New Zealand
2State Key Laboratory for Molecular Biology of Special Economic Animals, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Changchun, Jilin 130112, China
3AgResearch Ruakura Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 3123, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand

Received 14 May 2013; Accepted 1 October 2013

Academic Editor: Andre Van Wijnen

Copyright © 2013 Chunyi Li et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We have made comparisons between hair follicles (HFs) and antler units (AUs)—two seemingly unrelated mammalian organs. HFs are tiny and concealed within skin, whereas AUs are gigantic and grown externally for visual display. However, these two organs share some striking similarities. Both consist of permanent and cyclic/temporary components and undergo stem-cell-based organogenesis and cyclic regeneration. Stem cells of both organs reside in the permanent part and the growth centres are located in the temporary part of each respective organ. Organogenesis and regeneration of both organs depend on epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. Establishment of these interactions requires stem cells and reactive/niche cells (dermal papilla cells for HFs and epidermal cells for AUs) to be juxtaposed, which is achieved through destruction of the cyclic part to bring the reactive cells into close proximity to the respective stem cell niche. Developments of HFs and AUs are regulated by similar endocrine (particularly testosterone) and paracrine (particularly IGF1) factors. Interestingly, these two organs come to interplay during antlerogenesis. In conclusion, we believe that investigators from the fields of both HF and AU biology could greatly benefit from a comprehensive comparison between these two organs.