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J Cell Physiol. 1996 Jan;166(1):33-42.

Quantitative analysis of collagen gel contractile forces generated by dermal fibroblasts and the relationship to cell morphology.

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University College London, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Rayne Institute, United Kingdom.


The force generated in granulation tissue during wound contraction is thought to be cell mediated; however, it is unclear whether contractile forces are generated by fibroblast locomotion or contraction of myofibroblasts. To help clarify this question the force of this contraction can now be determined accurately in a human dermal fibroblast collagen lattice system using a novel instrument known as a Culture Force Monitor. Three distinct phases of contraction of such collagen gels could be identified over the first 24 hours. Most of the force generated by human dermal fibroblasts was produced during the first stage in parallel with cell attachment and associated changes in cell shape, and the appearance of cell processes. During this initial 24 hours no evidence could be found for the presence of myofibroblasts, but stereoscopic and electron microscopic analysis at a range of time points indicated that migratory fibroblasts were present in the system. Comparison of the contraction profiles of cells extracted from other tissues (tendon and articular cartilage), and extracted by different means from the same tissue specimen, indicated that different populations of fibroblasts can be distinguished on the basis of their pattern of contractions. It would seem that most of the force generated in this model is a result of fibroblast attachment and movement within the collagen lattice. Furthermore, different groups of fibroblasts, even within the same tissue, may vary in their contraction (hence locomotory) activity.

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