Wound healing involves a series of carefully modulated steps, from initial injury and blood clot to the final reconstituted tissue or scar. A dynamic reciprocity exists throughout between the wound, blood elements, extracellular matrix, and cells that participate in healing. Multiple cytokines and signal transduction pathways regulate these reactions. A major component throughout most of the process is hyaluronan, a straight-chain carbohydrate extracellular matrix polymer. Hyaluronan occurs in multiple forms, chain length being the only distinguishing characteristic between them. Levels of hyaluronan in its high-molecular-weight form are prominent in the earliest stages of wound repair. Progressively more fragmented forms occur in a manner not previously appreciated. We outline here steps in the wound healing cascade in which hyaluronan participates, as well as providing a review of its metabolism. Although described by necessity in a series of quantum steps, the healing process is constituted by a smooth continuum of overlapping reactions. The prevalence of hyaluronan in the wound (initially termed "hexosamine-containing mucopolysaccharide"), particularly in its early stages, was pointed out over half a century ago by the Harvard surgeon J. Engelbert Dunphy. It appears we are now returning to where we started.
© 2014 by the Wound Healing Society.