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J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Sep;119(3):653-60.

Wounding of bioengineered skin: cellular and molecular aspects after injury.

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Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Roger Williams Medical Center, Providence, RI 02908, USA.


Skin substitutes are increasingly being used in the treatment of difficult to heal wounds but their mechanisms of action are largely unknown. In this study, using histology, immunostaining, flow cytometry, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, we determined the response to injury of a human bilayered skin substitute. Meshing or scalpel fenestration of the construct was found to stimulate keratinocyte migration and to decrease proliferation. By 24 h, flow cytometry of the keratinocyte component showed that meshing was associated with a 33% decrease in the number of cells in S phase (p < 0.01). An approximately 2-fold decrease in staining for Ki67, a proliferation marker, was observed with meshing of human bilayered skin substitute. The process of reepithelialization was apparent by 12 h, however, the wounded human bilayered skin substitute was healed by day 3, and a stratum corneum and fully stratified epithelium were re-established by day 4. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays showed that the expression of acute proinflammatory cytokines (interleukins 1alpha, 6, and 8, tumor necrosis factor alpha) peaked by 12-24 h postinjury. The levels of mRNA of certain growth factors (transforming growth factor beta1, vascular endothelial growth factor, insulin-like growth factor 2) but not others (platelet-derived growth factors A and B, keratinocyte growth factor, fibroblast growth factors 1 and 7, transforming growth factor beta3) increased by 12 h and peaked by 1-3 d after injury, returning to normal by day 6. Immunostaining for tumor necrosis factor alpha and transforming growth factor beta1 paralleled these findings by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. We conclude that human bilayered skin substitute, as a prototypic bilayered skin substitute, is a truly dynamic living tissue, capable of responding to physical injury in a staged and specific pattern of cell migration, reepithelialization, and cytokine expression.

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