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Labeling of human epidermal stem cells

Organization name

DKFZ Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum



The human epidermis is undergoing a continuous differentiation process, in which small populations of stem cells proliferate and differentiate. As in other organs theses stem cells are entitled to maintain the regenerative capacity of the skin throughout the life of the subject. Accordingly methods for specific identification of this particular cell type in the human epidermis are essential for answering questions in epidermal research.

Key facts

  • Generation of skin equivalents using esterified hyaluronic acid scaffolds
  • Specific labeling of human epidermal stem cells by Iododeoxyuridine, PKH26, PHK67 or similar substances
  • Testing of any compound of interest on the behavior of human epidermal stem cells

Development Stage

A cell culture method was established.

The Technology

Contrary to outer organs like the hematopoietic system, there are no markers available which identify human epidermal stem cells unequivocally. So the only reliable identification method of dermal stem cells is based on their very slow proliferation rate. The present invention discloses a method for the production of dermal equivalents by seeding labeled keratinocytes on fibroblasts which are embedded in an esterified hyaluronic acid scaffold. As labeling dyes Iododeoxyuridine, PKH26, PHK67 or similar substances can be used. After several weeks of culture cells still labeled can be addressed as dermal stem cells and further analyzed.

Applications and Commercial Opportunity

The system can be used for testing the effects of any compound of interest on the behaviour of epidermal stem cells.
In addition it allows the identification of new epidermal stem cell markers and basic research on epidermal stem cells in an in vitro system.


The current invention was jointly carried out by Stark HJ., Fusenig N., Muffler S., Amoros-Alonso M., Boukamp P. DKFZ Heidelberg, Germany

Intellectual Property

A priority patent application “Labeling of human epidermal stem cells” was filed October 30, 2006 as EP 06 123 181.7. An international PCT was published as WO 2008/052963, which was nationalized EP 2087100 and US 2010-0323384


“A stable niche supports longterm maintenance of human epidermal stem cells in organotypic cultures” published in Stem Cells. 2008 Oct; 26(10):2506-15 by Muffler S, Stark HJ, Amoros M, Falkowska-Hansen B, Boehnke K, Bühring HJ, Marmé A, Bickenbach JR, Boukamp P.

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