Keratin gene expression is regarded as a hallmark of epidermal biology. It demarcates the three keratinocyte phenotypes: basal (expressing KRT5 and KRT14), differentiating (expressing KRT1 and KRT10), and activated (wound healing), which is characterized by expression of KRT6, KRT16, and KRT17. Activated keratinocytes are among the first signals of epidermal wound healing. In addition, they are found deregulated in nonhealing chronic wounds. To examine keratins as a potential modality for wound-healing disorders, we evaluated two different keratin dressings, liquid or solid, and assessed their effects of epithelialization and closure using porcine partial-thickness wound-healing model in vivo. We found that both forms of keratin dressings accelerated closure and epithelialization, achieving statistically significant differences on day 5. Evidence suggesting early onset of epithelialization was corroborated further by gene expression analyses revealing induction of KRT6A, KRT16, and KRT17 by day 2 postwounding. The data suggest that keratin dressings may stimulate epithelialization by enhancing the activation of keratinocytes. We conclude that keratin-containing dressings can accelerate wound healing and closure. Further studies are needed to determine the molecular mechanisms of this activation.
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