The heme-heme oxygenase system in wound healing: Implications for scar formation

Fadtg Wagener, A Scharstuhl, Rex M Tyrrell, J W Von den Hoff, A Jozkowicz, J Dulak, F G M Russel, A M Kuijpers-Jagtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (SciVal)


Wound healing is an intricate process requiring the concerted action of keratinocytes, fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and macrophages. Here, we review the literature on normal wound healing and the pathological forms of wound healing, such as hypertrophic or excessive scar formation, with special emphasis on the heme-heme oxygenase (HO) system and the versatile effector molecules that are formed after HO-mediated heme degradation. Excessive scar formation following wounding is thought to relate to prolonged oxidative and inflammatory stress in the skin. Evidence is accumulating that the heme-HO system forms a novel and important target in the control of wound healing. Heme-protein derived heme can act as a potent oxidative and inflammatory stress inducer, and excess levels of heme may thus contribute to delayed resolution of oxidative and inflammatory insults in the skin. This emphasizes the need for a timely reduction of the levels of heme. Heme-binding proteins, heme transporters, and the heme degrading protein, HO, form therefore a necessary defense. Deficiencies in these defense proteins or a disturbed redox status, as in diabetic patients, may render individuals more prone to heme-induced deleterious effects. A better understanding of the heme-heme oxygenase system as target during wound healing may result in novel strategies to reduce scar formation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1571-1585
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Drug Targets
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • inflammation
  • wound healing
  • heme oxygenase
  • heme
  • (myo)-fibroblasts
  • scar formation


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