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Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 Jan;302(1):47-55. doi: 10.1007/s00403-009-0989-8. Epub 2009 Aug 23.

Comparison between human fetal and adult skin.

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  • 1Association of Dutch Burn Centres, P.O. Box 1015, 1940 EA, Beverwijk, The Netherlands.


Healing of early-gestation fetal wounds results in scarless healing. Since the capacity for regeneration is probably inherent to the fetal skin itself, knowledge of the fetal skin composition may contribute to the understanding of fetal wound healing. The aim of this study was to analyze the expression profiles of different epidermal and dermal components in the human fetal and adult skin. In the human fetal skin (ranging from 13 to 22 weeks' gestation) and adult skin biopsies, the expression patterns of several epidermal proteins (K10, K14, K16, K17, SKALP, involucrin), basement membrane proteins, Ki-67, blood vessels and extracellular matrix proteins (fibronectin, chondroitin sulfate, elastin) were determined using immunohistochemistry. The expression profiles of K17, involucrin, dermal Ki-67, fibronectin and chondroitin sulfate were higher in the fetal skin than in adult skin. In the fetal skin, elastin was not present in the dermis, but it was found in the adult skin. The expression patterns of basement membrane proteins, blood vessels, K10, K14, K16 and epidermal Ki-67 were similar in human fetal skin and adult skin. In this systematic overview, most of the differences between fetal and adult skin were found at the level of dermal extracellular matrix molecules expression. This study suggests that, especially, dermal components are important in fetal scarless healing.

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