Computational and experimental study of the mechanics of embryonic wound healing

Matthew A. Wyczalkowski, Victor D. Varner, Larry A. Taber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Wounds in the embryo show a remarkable ability to heal quickly without leaving a scar. Previous studies have found that an actomyosin ring (purse string) forms around the wound perimeter and contracts to close the wound over the course of several dozens of minutes. Here, we report experiments that reveal an even faster mechanism which remarkably closes wounds by more than 50% within the first 30. s. Circular and elliptical wounds (~ 100 μm in size) were made in the blastoderm of early chick embryos and allowed to heal, with wound area and shape characterized as functions of time. The closure rate displayed a biphasic behavior, with rapid constriction lasting about a minute, followed by a period of more gradual closure to complete healing. Fluorescent staining suggests that both healing phases are driven by actomyosin contraction, with relatively rapid contraction of fibers at cell borders within a relatively thick ring of tissue (several cells wide) around the wound followed by slower contraction of a thin supracellular actomyosin ring along the margin, consistent with a purse string mechanism. Finite-element modeling showed that this idea is biophysically plausible, with relatively isotropic contraction within the thick ring giving way to tangential contraction in the thin ring. In addition, consistent with experimental results, simulated elliptical wounds heal with little change in aspect ratio, and decreased membrane tension can cause these wounds to open briefly before going on to heal. These results provide new insight into the healing mechanism in embryonic epithelia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-146
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Biomechanics
  • Chick embryo
  • Epithelial morphogenesis
  • Epithelium
  • Finite elements
  • Growth
  • Mechanobiology


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