An evaluation of wound mechanics is crucial in reflecting the wound healing status. The present study examined the biomechanical properties of healing rat skin wounds in vivo and ex vivo. Thirty male Sprague-Dawley rats, each with a 6 mm full-thickness circular punch biopsied wound at both posterior hind limbs were used. The mechanical stiffness at both the central and margins of the wound was measured repeatedly in five rats over the same wound sites to monitor the longitudinal changes over time of before wounding, and on days 0, 3, 7, 10, 14, and 21 after wounding in vivo by using an optical coherence tomography-based air-jet indentation system. Five rats were euthanized at each time point, and the biomechanical properties of the wound tissues were assessed ex vivo using a tensiometer. At the central wound bed region, the stiffness measured by the air-jet system increased significantly from day 0 (17.2%), peaked at day 7 (208.3%), and then decreased progressively until day 21 (40.2%) as compared with baseline prewounding status. The biomechanical parameters of the skin wound samples measured by the tensiometer showed a marked reduction upon wounding, then increased with time (all p < 0.05). On day 21, the ultimate tensile strength of the skin wound tissue approached 50% of the normal skin; while the stiffness of tissue recovered at a faster rate, reaching 97% of its prewounded state. Our results suggested that it took less time for healing wound tissues to recover their stiffness than their maximal strength in rat skin. The stiffness of wound tissues measured by air-jet could be an indicator for monitoring wound healing and contraction.

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