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Introduction: A reproducible, standardised model for cutaneous scar tissue to assess therapeutics is crucial to the progress of the field. A systematic review was performed to critically evaluate scarring models in both animal and human research. Method: All studies in which cutaneous scars are modelling in animals or humans were included. Models that were focused on the wound healing process or those in humans with scars from an existing injury were excluded. Ovid Medline® was searched on 25 February 2019 to perform two near identical searches; one aimed at animals and the other aimed at humans. Two reviewers independently screened the titles and abstracts for study selection. Full texts of potentially suitable studies were then obtained for analysis. Results: The animal kingdom search yielded 818 results, of which 71 were included in the review. Animals utilised included rabbits, mice, pigs, dogs and primates. Methods used for creating scar tissue included sharp excision, dermatome injury, thermal injury and injection of fibrotic substances. The search for scar assessment in humans yielded 287 results, of which 9 met the inclusion criteria. In all human studies, sharp incision was used to create scar tissue. Some studies focused on patients before or after elective surgery, including bilateral breast reduction, knee replacement or midline sternotomy. Discussion: The rabbit ear scar model was the most popular tool for scar research, although pigs produce scar tissue which most closely resembles that of humans. Immunodeficient mouse models allow for in vivo engraftment and study of human scar tissue, however, there are limitations relating to the systemic response to these xenografts. Factors that determine the use of animals include cost of housing requirements, genetic traceability, and ethical concerns. In humans, surgical patients are often studied for scarring responses and outcomes, but reproducibility and patient factors that impact healing can limit interpretation. Human tissue use in vitro may serve as a good basis to rapidly screen and assess treatments prior to clinical use, with the advantage of reduced cost and setup requirements.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Surg

Publication Date





animals, human, research models, review, scarring