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Ann Plast Surg. 2005 Jul;55(1):69-75; discussion 75.

Mechanical strain alters gene expression in an in vitro model of hypertrophic scarring.

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Laboratory of Microvascular Research and Vascular Tissue Engineering, Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Fibroblasts represent a highly mechanoresponsive cell type known to play key roles in normal and pathologic processes such as wound healing, joint contracture, and hypertrophic scarring. In this study, we used a novel fibroblast-populated collagen lattice (FPCL) isometric tension model, allowing us to apply graded biaxial loads to dermal fibroblasts in a 3-dimensional matrix. Cell morphology demonstrated dose-dependent transition from round cells lacking stress fibers in nonloaded lattices to a broad, elongated morphology with prominent actin stress fibers in 800-mg-loaded lattices. Using quantitative real-time RT-PCR, a dose dependent induction of both collagen-1 and collagen-3 mRNA up to 2.8- and 3-fold, respectively, as well as a 2.5-fold induction of MMP-1 (collagenase) over unloaded FPCLs was observed. Quantitative expression of the proapoptotic gene Bax was down-regulated over 4-fold in mechanically strained FPCLs. These results suggest that mechanical strain up-regulates matrix remodeling genes and down-regulates normal cellular apoptosis, resulting in more cells, each of which produces more matrix. This "double burden" may underlie the pathophysiology of hypertrophic scars and other fibrotic processes in vivo.

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