The effects of caffeine on wound healing

Nkemcho Ojeh, Olivera Stojadinovic, Irena Pastar, Andrew Sawaya, Natalie Yin, Marjana Tomic-Canic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The purine alkaloid caffeine is a major component of many beverages such as coffee and tea. Caffeine and its metabolites theobromine and xanthine have been shown to have antioxidant properties. Caffeine can also act as adenosine-receptor antagonist. Although it has been shown that adenosine and antioxidants promote wound healing, the effect of caffeine on wound healing is currently unknown. To investigate the effects of caffeine on processes involved in epithelialisation, we used primary human keratinocytes, HaCaT cell line and ex vivo model of human skin. First, we tested the effects of caffeine on cell proliferation, differentiation, adhesion and migration, processes essential for normal wound epithelialisation and closure. We used 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) proliferation assay to test the effects of seven different caffeine doses ranging from 0·1 to 5mM. We found that caffeine restricted cell proliferation of keratinocytes in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, scratch wound assays performed on keratinocyte monolayers indicated dose-dependent delays in cell migration. Interestingly, adhesion and differentiation remained unaffected in monolayer cultures treated with various doses of caffeine. Using a human ex vivo wound healing model, we tested topical application of caffeine and found that it impedes epithelialisation, confirming in vitro data. We conclude that caffeine, which is known to have antioxidant properties, impedes keratinocyte proliferation and migration, suggesting that it may have an inhibitory effect on wound healing and epithelialisation. Therefore, our findings are more in support of a role for caffeine as adenosine-receptor antagonist that would negate the effect of adenosine in promoting wound healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-613
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Wound Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Caffeine
  • Ex vivo model
  • Migration
  • Proliferation
  • Re-epithelialisation
  • Wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Surgery


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