Characterizing regeneration in the mammalian external ear

Anthony D. Metcalfe, Hayley Willis, Alice Beare, M. W J Ferguson

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    We have previously shown that MRL/MpJ mice have a capacity for regeneration instead of scar formation following an ear punch wound. Understanding the differences that occur between scar-free regeneration or repair with scarring will have great impact upon advances in skin tissue engineering. A key question that remains unanswered in the MRL/MpJ mouse model is whether regeneration was restricted to the ear or whether it extended to the skin. A histological analysis was conducted up to 4.months post-wounding, not only with 2-mm punch wounds to the ear but also to the skin on the backs of the same animals. MRL/MpJ mouse ear wounds regenerate faster than control strains, with enhanced blastema formation, a markedly thickened tip epithelium and reduced scarring. Interestingly, in the excisional back wounds, none of these regenerative features was observed and both the C57BL/6 control and MRL/MpJ mice healed with scarring. This review gives an insight into how this regenerative capacity may be due to evolutionary processes as well as ear anatomy. The ear is thin and surrounded on both sides by epithelia, and the dorsal skin is devoid of cartilage and under greater tensile strain. Analysis of apoptosis during ear regeneration is also discussed, assessing the role and expression of various members of the Bcl-2 family of proteins. Ongoing studies are focusing on de novo cartilage development in the regenerating ear, as well as understanding the role of downstream signalling cascades in the process. Identification of such signals could lead to their manipulation and use in a novel tissue-engineered skin substitute with scar-free integration. © 2006 The Authors Journal compilation © 2006 Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)439-446
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Anatomy
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


    • MRL/MpJ
    • Regeneration
    • Repair
    • Skin
    • Wound healing


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