Various studies have suggested that the rate of adult skin healing may be in some way dependent on signals emanating from cutaneous nerves. Further, it appears that adult wounds become hyperinnervated by sensory nerves during the process of healing. In order to investigate this reciprocal relationship further, we have used a simple embryonic model to look at the effect of wounds on nerves, and conversely, the effect of nerves on wounds. We find that wounds made to the dorsum of the chick wing bud, at a stage prior to normal innervation (at E4), or soon after the normal establishment of cutaneous innervation (at E7), subtly alter the pattern of branching by perturbing developmental guidance cues, but do not cause hyperinnervation, whereas wounding at E14 does cause hyperinnervation. By creating chicks with nerveless wings, we show that from E7, wound healing in the absence of nerves is significantly impaired. These observations suggest that, from the earliest stages of skin innervation, the presence of nerves is beneficial to the healing process, but that, in contrast to neonatal and adult tissues, wound healing in the embryo and early foetus does not trigger hyperinnervation.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.