, Volume 291, Issue 11, pp 591-599

Wound healing of human skin transplanted onto the nude mouse after a superficial excisional injury: human dermal reconstruction is achieved in several steps by two different fibroblast subpopulations

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Abstract It has been established that human skin grafted onto the nude mouse is able to regenerate after being subjected to a full-thickness wound. In the present work, we sought to determine the cells involved in the connective tissue repair process following superficial wounding. Two months after transplantation, superficial wounds were made at the center of the graft using mechanical dermabrasion. At various times thereafter, ranging from 2 days to 6 weeks, healing grafts were harvested and processed for immunohistological study with species-specific and cross-reacting antibodies directed against human or mouse antigens. The grafted human skin regenerated according to the following series of events. First, the human dermis underneath the scab became devoid of human fibroblasts while the surrounding human dermis preserved its own characteristics. The TUNEL reaction on early-phase healing wounds indicated that apoptosis occurred steadily within this area and could be the mechanism by which cells disappeared. Moreover, cell death was reduced when the wound was covered with an occlusive dressing. The human dermis beneath the wound was then invaded by mouse cells which deposited type I collagen on the human extracellular matrix and produced mouse granulation tissue at the surface above it. Human keratinocytes migrated over the mouse granulation tissue to reconstruct the epidermis. Eventually, the mouse granulation tissue was progressively invaded by human fibroblasts, which formed a human neodermis. The overall process appeared to depend upon several successive epithelial-mesenchymal interactions, which were not species-specific. This suggests that myofibroblasts arise from a specific subpopulation of fibroblasts, probably located at the interface between the dermis and adipose tissue, and that the granulation tissue is eventually remodeled by another population of fibroblasts present in the human dermis.

Received: 31 March 1999 / Accepted after revision: 15 July 1999 / Accepted: 13 August 1999