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Web Exclusives: Systems

Modeling How Wounds Heal
Adapted from a Ohio State University news release
Posted September 28, 2009

Four Overlapping Stages of Healthy Wound Healing
1. Platelets make blood clots and release chemicals that attract cells to the wound
2. White blood cells kill infectious agents and generate growth factors needed for repair
3. New blood vessels form and cells produce the extracellular matrix
4. The repaired wound gains strength (this stage can take years)

Researchers at Ohio State University have built the first mathematical model of an ischemic wound, a type of chronic wound that heals slowly or never heals because it's fed by an inadequate supply of blood and nutrients. The new model will help researchers explore the biology of chronic wounds.

Wound healing
Chronic wounds affect an estimated 6.5 million people in the United States each year. Credit: Jonathan Moore

Ischemic wounds are a common complication of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or other conditions that affect vascular health. They can be severe, sometimes leading to limb amputation or death. In their paper describing the model, the OSU researchers call ischemic wounds "the most clinically challenging type of wounds."

The model takes into account many factors involved in the complex process of wound healing, like the concentration of oxygen and growth factors and the density of pathogen-fighting white blood cells, repairing fibroblasts and tiny new blood vessels. It also includes the extracellular matrix, the bed on which cells work to close the wound.

The new model's results generally match those from experimental studies. For example, it showed that a non-ischemic wound will close in about 13 days and an ischemic wound, after 20 days, will only be 25 percent healed. It also revealed that ischemic wounds lack oxygen and remain in a prolonged inflammatory phase.

The researchers hope the model will enable them and others to answer a wide range of questions about ischemic wounds and how best to treat them.

Chandan Sen, who directs the OSU Comprehensive Wound Center and who helped build the new model, says, "We're not just considering what type of therapy should be used for these wounds. It is the specifics of when and how you apply it—those are the details that matter."

Learn about related research

This page last reviewed on April 22, 2011