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PURPOSE OF REVIEW - Injured skin in the mammalian fetus can heal regeneratively due to the ability of fetal fibroblasts to effectively reorganize the extracellular matrix (ECM). This process occurs without fetal fibroblasts differentiating into highly contractile myofibroblasts which cause scarring and fibrosis in adult wounds. Here, we provide a brief review of fetal wound healing and the evidence supporting a unique contractile phenotype in fetal fibroblasts. Furthermore, we discuss the biomechanical role of the ECM in driving myofibroblast differentiation in wound healing and the implications for new clinical modalities based on the biophysical properties of fetal fibroblasts.
RECENT FINDINGS - We and others have found that fetal fibroblasts are refractory to the environmental stimuli necessary for myofibroblast differentiation in adult wound healing including mechanical stress.
SUMMARY - Understanding the biomechanical mechanisms that regulate the contractile phenotype of fetal fibroblasts may unlock new avenues for anti-scarring therapies that target myofibroblast differentiation of adult fibroblasts.