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Lab Invest. 2008 Dec;88(12):1278-90. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2008.101. Epub 2008 Oct 27.

Deep dermal fibroblasts contribute to hypertrophic scarring.

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1Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Hypertrophic scar (HTS) following thermal injury is a dermal fibroproliferative disorder that leads to considerable morbidity. The development of HTS involves numerous cell types and cytokines with dermal fibroblasts being a key cell. We have previously reported that the phenotype of fibroblasts isolated from HTS was altered compared to fibroblasts from normal skin. In this study, normal skin was horizontally sectioned into five layers using a dermatome from which fibroblasts were isolated and cultured. Cells from the deeper layers were observed to proliferate at a slow rate, but were morphologically larger. In ELISA and FACS assays, cells from the deeper layers produced more TGF-beta1 and TGF-beta1 producing cells were higher. In quantitative RT-PCR, the cells from the deeper layers had higher CTGF and HSP47 mRNA levels compared to those from superficial layers. In western blot, FACS and collagen gel assays, fibroblasts from the deeper layers produced more alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA), had higher alpha-SMA positive cells and contracted collagen gels more. Fibroblasts from the deeper layers were also found to produce more collagen, but less collagenase by mass spectrometry and collagenase assay. Interestingly, cells from the deeper layers also produced more of the proteoglycan, versican, but less decorin. Taken together, these data strongly demonstrate that fibroblasts from the deeper layers of the dermis resemble HTS fibroblasts, suggesting that the deeper layer fibroblasts may be critical in the formation of HTS.

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