BACKGROUND. Cutaneous wound healing is a normal physiologic function, observed and described for centuries by those afflicted with wounds and by those caring for them. Recently, tremendous progress has been made in discovering the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for wound healing. Counseling patients appropriately and planning future therapeutic interventions in delayed or abnormal wound healing may be improved by a thorough understanding of the relationship between clinical, cellular, and subcellular events occurring during the normal healing process. MATERIALS AND METHODS. A review of the wound healing literature from the past several decades, with a focus on the past 5 to 10 years in particular, along with illustrative case examples from our clinical practice over the past decade. RESULTS. Traditional clinical stages of wounding healing are still relevant, but more overlap between stages is likely a more accurate depiction of events. The role of cells such as platelets, macrophages, leukocytes, fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and keratinocytes is much better known, particularly during the inflammatory and proliferation stages of healing. Molecules such as interferon, integrins, proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans, matrix metalloproteinases, and other regulatory cytokines play a critical role in the regulation of healing mechanisms. CONCLUSION. Cutaneous wound healing in normal hosts follows an orderly clinical process. The scientific underpinnings for healing are better understood than ever, although much remains to be discovered. Eventually, such improved understanding of cellular and subcellular physiology may lead to new or better forms of therapy for patients with acute, chronic, and surgical skin wounds.
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