Application of a partial-thickness human ex vivo skin culture model in cutaneous wound healing study

Wei Xu, Seok Jong Hong, Shengxian Jia, Yanan Zhao, Robert D. Galiano, Thomas A. Mustoe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


A number of in vivo and ex vivo skin models have been applied to human wound healing studies. A reliable skin model, which recapitulates the features of human wound repair, is essential for the clinical and mechanical investigation of human cutaneous wound healing. Full-skin ex vivo culture systems have been used in wound healing studies. However, important structures of the skin, such as the differentiation of keratinocytes and epidermis-dermis junction, are poorly characterized in this model. This study aims to develop an optimized partial-thickness human ex vivo skin culture (HESC) model to maintain human skin characteristics in vitro. During our culture, the basal layer, suprabasal layer, and stratum granulosum layer of epidermis were preserved until day 8. Analyses of hemidesmosome proteins, bullous pemphigoid antigen 1 (BP180) and 2 (BP230), showed that the integrity of the basement membrane of the epidermis was well preserved in the HESC model. In contrast, an organotypic culture with human keratinocytes and fibroblasts failed to show an integrated basement membrane. Maintenance of skin structure by histological analysis and proliferation of epidermal keratinocytes by Ki67 staining were observed in our model for 12 days. Complete re-epithelialization of the wounding area was observed at day 6 post wounding when a superficial incisional wound was created. The expression of Ki-67 and keratin 6, indicators of activated keratinocytes in epidermis, was significantly upregulated and new collagen synthesis was found in the dermis during the wound healing process. As control, we also used organotypic culture in studying the differentiation of the keratinocyte layers and incisional wound repair. It turned out that our model has advantage in these study fields. The results suggest that our HESC model retains important elements of in vivo skin and has significant advantages for the wound healing studies in vitro.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)584-599
Number of pages16
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • collagen reproduction
  • human skin ex vivo culture
  • keratinocyte apoptosis
  • keratinocyte differentiation
  • keratinocyte migration
  • keratinocyte proliferation
  • wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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