JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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The ontogeny of scarless healing II: EGF and PDGF-B gene expression in fetal rat skin and fibroblasts as a function of gestational age.

Twenty years ago, surgeons noted the ability of early-gestation fetal skin to heal in a scarless manner. Since that time, numerous investigators have attempted to elucidate the mechanisms behind this phenomenon. As a result of this effort, it is now well established that many animals undergo a transition late in development from scarless cutaneous healing to a scar-forming, adultlike phenotype. The authors have been interested in the role played by cytokines known to be involved in the adult wound-healing process and how they relate to scarless repair. They therefore asked the following question: Are genes for epidermal growth factor (EGF) and platelet-derived growth factor-B (PDGF-B) expressed differentially as a function of gestational age in fetal rat skin and dermal fibroblasts? To answer this question, skin from fetal Sprague-Dawley rats (N = 56) at time points that represented both the scarless and scar-forming periods of rat gestation was harvested. In addition, fibroblasts derived from fetal rat skin were cultured in vitro at similar times. These cells were expanded in culture and, when confluent, total ribonucleic acid from both fibroblasts and whole skin was extracted and subjected to Northern blot analysis with probes for EGF and PDGF-B. Results demonstrated that neither EGF nor PDGF-B gene expression changed markedly as a function of gestational age in fetal fibroblasts alone. In whole skin, however, both EGF and PDGF-B demonstrated a marked decrease in gene expression with increasing gestational age. Furthermore, the most striking decrease in gene expression for both cytokines came between 16 and 18 days of gestation-the transition point between scarless and scar-forming repair in the fetal rat. These data suggest that EGF and PDGF may play a role in the mechanism of scarless cutaneous repair. Moreover, it appears that fetal fibroblasts are not the cell type responsible for this differential gene expression. These results raise questions about the unique cytokine milieu likely to be present during the time of scarless healing and the cells that ultimately guide the mechanisms leading to skin regeneration.

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