The Interplay of Mechanical Stress, Strain, and Stiffness at the Keloid Periphery Correlates with Increased Caveolin-1/ROCK Signaling and Scar Progression

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2019 Jul;144(1):58e-67e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000005717.


Background: Fibroproliferative disorders result in excessive scar formation, are associated with high morbidity, and cost billions of dollars every year. Of these, keloid disease presents a particularly challenging clinical problem because the cutaneous scars progress beyond the original site of injury. Altered mechanotransduction has been implicated in keloid development, but the mechanisms governing scar progression into the surrounding tissue remain unknown. The role of mechanotransduction in keloids is further complicated by the differential mechanical properties of keloids and the surrounding skin.

Methods: The authors used human mechanical testing, finite element modeling, and immunohistologic analyses of human specimens to clarify the complex interplay of mechanical stress, strain, and stiffness in keloid scar progression.

Results: Changes in human position (i.e., standing, sitting, and supine) are correlated to dynamic changes in local stress/strain distribution, particularly in regions with a predilection for keloids. Keloids are composed of stiff tissue, which displays a fibrotic phenotype with relatively low proliferation. In contrast, the soft skin surrounding keloids is exposed to high mechanical strain that correlates with increased expression of the caveolin-1/rho signaling via rho kinase mechanotransduction pathway and elevated inflammation and proliferation, which may lead to keloid progression.

Conclusions: The authors conclude that changes in human position are strongly correlated with mechanical loading of the predilection sites, which leads to increased mechanical strain in the peripheral tissue surrounding keloids. Furthermore, increased mechanical strain in the peripheral tissue, which is the site of keloid progression, was correlated with aberrant expression of caveolin-1/ROCK signaling pathway. These findings suggest a novel mechanism for keloid progression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Caveolin 1 / physiology*
  • Female
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Humans
  • Keloid* / metabolism
  • Keloid* / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Posture / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Young Adult
  • rho-Associated Kinases / physiology*


  • Caveolin 1
  • ROCK1 protein, human
  • rho-Associated Kinases