To examine the effects of recombinant growth factors in vivo, impaired wound healing was studied in genetically diabetic C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. Large full-thickness skin wounds made on the backs of these mice exhibited significant delays in the entry of inflammatory cells into the wound, the formation of granulation tissue, and in wound closure when compared to their nondiabetic littermates. Recombinant human platelet-derived growth factor (rPDGF-BB, 1 or 10 micrograms), recombinant human basic fibroblast growth factor (rbFGF, 1 micrograms), or combinations of both were applied topically to the wounds for 5 to 14 days after wounding. Diabetic mouse wounds treated with rPDGF-BB or rbFGF had many more fibroblasts and capillaries in the wound bed at 10 and 21 days than did wounds treated with the vehicle alone. The animals treated with growth factors also had significantly greater wound closure at 21 days than those treated with the vehicle. Combinations of rPDGF-BB and rbFGF improved all parameters of healing but not to a greater extent than either growth factor alone. The effectiveness of rPDGF-BB and rbFGF suggest that recombinant growth factors may be useful in the treatment of patients with deficient wound repair.