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Smoking Slows Healing

Study outlines how habit affects skin repair in wounds

FRIDAY, Dec. 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new study outlines the way that cigarette smoke may delay the formation of healing tissue on wounds.

Previous research demonstrated that cigarette smoke slows wound healing and increases the risk of scarring.

In this new study, researchers at the University of California, Riverside, used mice and human cell cultures to examine the effect of cigarette smoke on fibroblasts -- cells that migrate to wounds to create healing tissue. Fibroblasts play a vital role in tissue repair and remodeling.

The study found that while cigarette smoke doesn't kill fibroblasts, it damages them and impairs their ability to move into the wound area. Instead, the fibroblasts build up on the margins of the wound.

"Taken together, our results suggest that tobacco smoke may delay wound repair because of the inability of the fibroblasts to migrate into the wounded area, leading to an accumulation of these cells at the edge of the wound, thus preventing the formation of healing tissue," researcher Manuela Martins-Green said in a prepared statement.

"Furthermore, the smoke-induced survival of cells that should have died, coupled to the smoke-induced decrease in cell migration activity, causes a buildup of scar tissue, thereby contributing to fibrosis and excess scarring," Martins-Green said.

"We're now trying to isolate the component or components in smoke that inhibit cell migration and block cell death," Martins-Green said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about caring for wounds.

SOURCE: American Society for Cell Biology, news release, December 2004
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