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APMIS Suppl. 2003;(115):1-56.

Collagen deposition in the subcutaneous tissue during wound healing in humans: a model evaluation.

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Copenhagen Wound Healing Center, Bispebjerg Hospital University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Wound healing encompasses coagulation, inflammation, angiogenesis, fibroplasia, contraction, epithelialisation and remodeling. A granulation tissue is produced following incision of tissue such as skin, abdominal wall or the gastrointestinal tract, and the strength of the wound is determined primarily by the collagen content early in the healing course. Few models are available to study wound healing in man. The percutaneous insertion of expanded poly-tetrafluoroethylene tubes (ePTFE) into the subcutaneous tissue has been an established model for 20 years. The procedure is performed using a local anesthesia. The model has a diameter of 2.5 mm, a length of 5-10 cm and a pore size of 90-120 microns which is substantially more than that of vascular grafts. The polymer accumulates granulation tissue, the architecture of which resembles that of a normal surgical wound. Previous studies on the use of the ePTFE model in wound healing research are summarized in detail. Histological and immunohistochemical analyses of the granulation tissue deposited in the model were undertaken. The content of amino acids following hydrolysis of the granulation tissue was determined applying spectrophotometric or HPLC assays. Collagen amounts accumulated in the model are expressed as hydroxyproline per length of ePTFE or per total protein. Following a study in rats we examined 85 healthy volunteers and 158 surgical patients in the studies. Higher contents of hydroxyproline were found 10 days after implantation as compared to 5 days with considerable inter-person variation. Regarding median values there was a 25% difference between two measurements performed on two distinct ePTFE tubes from the same person, and a 12% difference between values obtained from two different pieces of the same ePTFE. Higher accumulation levels of hydroxyproline did not result in higher variability. Deposition of proline in the model correlated closely to total protein content. The ePTFE and a modified PVA model were compared in surgical patients. No reproducible measurements of hydroxyproline deposition were obtained with the PVA model as opposed to the ePTFE model. It is concluded that the modified PVA model is inadequate for determination of collagen deposition in subcutaneous granulation tissue. We found no correlation between collagen deposition levels obtained with placement of the ePTFE model in the subcutaneous tissue of the arm and in an uncomplicated surgical wound of the groin in the same patient, respectively. Significantly higher collagen deposition levels in the model were found in the surgical wound. Conversely, there was a significant correlation between protein deposition levels obtained at the two sites. Patients undergoing minor surgery (groin hernia repair) did not differ from healthy non-traumatized volunteers as regards deposition of collagen in subcutaneous tissue of the arm, whereas patients subjected to major general surgery demonstrated a significant decline during the postoperative phase compared to a preoperative evaluation. This decline was enhanced in patients who had infectious complications. Non-smoking volunteers were found to specifically accumulate more collagen (median value 82%) than smokers matched for age and gender. Irrespective of the smoking status women accumulated significantly more collagen in the model than men. These findings were re-tested in a prospective series leading to the same conclusion. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9) were determined in wound fluid obtained from the subcutaneous cavities of herniotomy wounds 24 and 48 h after operation. A significant and inverse correlation was demonstrated between MMP-9 after 24 h and accumulation levels of collagen in the ePTFE tube 10 days after implantation in the wound. Finally, it was demonstrated that local application of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor into the ePTFE model during implantation specifically and dose-dependently reduced the number of fibroblasts and deposition of collagen. The doses chosen for the experiments resulted in both a local and a systemic effect. It is concluded that the minimally invasive ePTFE model, despite a certain level of variability, presently provides one of the best possibilities of evaluation of the wound healing potential in both volunteers and patients under various conditions. We found the model convenient for the assessment of both matrix deposition during wound healing and the influence of several factors including demographic characteristics, trauma, tobacco smoking, drugs and tissue degrading components of the wound.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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