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Betz, P. and Nerlich, A. and Wilske, J. and Tübel, J. and Penning, R. and Eisenmenger, Wolfgang (1992): Time-dependent appearance of myofibroblasts in granulation tissue of human skin wounds. In: International Journal of Legal Medicine, Vol. 105, No. 2: pp. 99-103
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Abstract

Human skin wounds (66) inflicted between 20 h and 7 months prior to biopsy were studied. In order to identify the type of cellular differentiation of the fibroblastic cells in the granulation tissue, alpha-smooth muscle actin and desmin were immunohistochemically localized. The value of any presumed time-dependent appearance and/or disappearance of positively stained cells was tested for the estimation of wound age. In skin specimens with a wound age less than 5 days (n =15) no typical granulation tissue had developed and no alpha-actin-positive myofibroblasts could be detected. The first appearance of positively reacting myofibroblasts was noted in a 5-day-old wound. In 57% of the lesions with a wound age between 5 and 31 days (25 out of 44 cases) typical granulation tissue formation was present and myofibroblasts with positive reaction for alpha-smooth muscle actin could be identified. Numerous positively reacting cells could generally be found in wounds aged between 16 and 31 days, but also in wounds less than 16 days old. In 29% of the cases with a wound age of more than 31 days (2 out of 7 cases) alpha-sma-positive myofibroblasts also occured. Fibroblastic cells positive for desmin could not be seen at all in our series. Our results demonstrate the appearance of alpha-sma-positive myofibroblasts with the initial formation of typical granulation tissue in human skin lesions as early as approximately 5 days after wounding. In contrast to recent experimental results these cells remained detectable in wounds aged more than 2 months in some cases. The immunohistochemical detection of actin-positive cells, therefore, demonstrates whether an unknown skin wound is aged approximately 5 days or more. Even though a time-dependent decrease of myofibroblasts in human granulation tissue after 31 days in human wounds seems probable, the extended presence (up to about 2 months) of these cells allows no further exact age determination of older wounds.