Epidermal proliferation is not impaired in chronic venous ulcers
In this study we have investigated epidermal growth and differentiation during wound healing in human skin. The studies were performed in excisional wounds in normal skin and in chronic venous ulcers. Tissues were analyzed by immunohistochemical staining for proliferation-associated nuclear antigens (PCNA and Ki-67 antigen) and cytokeratin 16. Healing of excisional wounds was studied from day 2 to 14. Recruitment of resting (G0) epidermal cells started within 2 days after wounding; the number of cycling cells was maximal at day 4 and continued to be increased (compared to baseline levels in normal skin) after wound closure (7-14 days). Cytokeratin 16, a proliferation-associated keratin, was induced within 48 h and was expressed in the suprabasal keratinocytes of the wound edge. Cytokeratin 16 expression was maximal at day 4 and was still present in the neo-epidermis after restoration of epidermal continuity (7-14 days). Surprisingly, in chronic venous ulcers, cycling cells were present in the wound edges of all stages of the leg ulcers studied. Both the number and localization of cycling cells were similar to those in normal wound healing. Cytokeratin 16 was strongly expressed in all these ulcers. Our in vivo data demonstrate that recruitment of G0-cells into the cell cycle is not impaired in venous ulcers, which suggests that epidermal proliferation is not a limiting factor in the healing process of chronic venous ulcers.