Aging is associated with reduced deposition of specific extracellular matrix components, an upregulation of angiogenesis, and an altered inflammatory response in a murine incisional wound healing model

J Invest Dermatol. 1997 Apr;108(4):430-7. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12289705.


The concept that aging impairs wound healing is largely unsubstantiated, the literature being contradictory because of poor experimental design and a failure to adequately characterize animal models. This study tested the hypothesis that aging retards the rate of wound repair using standardized cutaneous incisional wounds in a well-characterized aging mouse colony. Against the background of age-related changes in normal dermal composition, marked differences in healing were observed. Immunostaining for fibronectin was decreased in the wounds of the old mice, with a delay in the inflammatory response, re-epithelialization, and the appearance of extracellular matrix components. Heparan sulfate and blood vessel staining were both unexpectedly increased in the wounds of the old animals at late time points. Despite an overall decrease in collagen I and III deposition in the wounds of old mice, the dermal organization was surprisingly similar to that of normal dermal basket-weave collagen architecture. By contrast, young animals developed abnormal, dense scars. Intriguingly, some of these age-related changes in scar quality and inflammatory cell profile are similar to those seen in fetal wound healing. The rate of healing in young animals appears to be increased at the expense of the scar quality, perhaps resulting from an altered inflammatory response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / metabolism
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Elastin / metabolism
  • Endothelium / chemistry
  • Endothelium / cytology
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Heparitin Sulfate / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Up-Regulation
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Chondroitin Sulfates
  • Collagen
  • Elastin
  • Heparitin Sulfate