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Development of a novel co-culture based in vitro model system to study the wound healing process



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Drug development research on wound repair is challenging and inefficient due to the complex nature of wound healing and scarring processes and the limitations of available in vitro or in vivo models used for preclinical drug testing. Many patients who undergo elective back surgery develop post-surgical complications resulting from excess peridural scarring in and around the site of operation. We tested the effects of two anti-inflammatory compounds, quercetin and L-2-oxothiazolidine-4-carboxylate (OTC), in ameliorating peridural scar formation following spinal laminectomy surgery in laboratory rats. Western blot and immunocytochemical analyses indicated that the peridural scar tissue contained MyoD-positive myoblast cells and expressed prolyl-4-hydroxylase (P4H), a fibroblast marker. Treatment with 1 mM OTC reduced activation of ERK1/2 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) at 21 days post-surgery suggesting potential anti-scarring mechanism. However, large animal to animal variation in the expression levels of collagen biosynthesis markers made it difficult to demonstrate any efficacy of quercetin or OTC in reducing peridural scar formation. The shortcomings of this live animal approach led us to develop a novel three-dimensional (3-D) in vitro wound repair model for evaluating quercetin and OTC effects. High-density “micromass” co-cultures seeded at a 1:3 ratio of FR 3T3 fibroblast cells and L8 myoblast cells formed 3-D microtissues in vitro that expressed MyoD, P4H, and á-smooth muscle actin. The micromass tissue layer remained adherent to the culture plate when inflicted with a single laceration injury, which allowed monitoring of cell migration into the wound site. Wounded cultures were treated with quercetin, OTC and other agents (TGF- â1, mitomycin, p38 inhibitor SB202190, ERK inhibitor PD184352) to determine their effects on collagen accumulation, wound closure rates, MAPK activation, and gene transcript expression. Both OTC and quercetin treatments reduced collagen biosynthesis in dose-dependent manner. In addition, 1.5 mM OTC accelerated wound closure and significantly reduced p38 MAPK activation without affecting ERK1/2. In contrast, 40 µM quercetin delayed wound closure in micromass co-cultures and reduced ERK1/2 activation. Our in vitro findings suggest that OTC might have potential as an anti-scarring agent. Importantly, our novel micromass co-culture system shows promise as an improved 3-D scaffold-free in vitro model for use in preclinical drug development research.



Drug discovery, Collagen, Scaffold-free, Tissue engineering, Peridural scarring



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Anatomy and Cell Biology


Anatomy and Cell Biology


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