Differences between the Sexes in Immune Response and Wound Healing

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2009-06

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The Ohio State University

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Abstract

Billions of dollars are spent annually for chronic wound care in the United States (U.S.). The problem is predicted to significantly intensify as the population ages, therefore the physiology of wound healing remains an important area for research. Proinflammatory cytokines coordinate local molecular and cellular processes during the initial inflammatory stage of healing. Sex-specific hormones may alter proinflammatory cytokine production, but how this phenomenon specifically influences wound healing is not clearly understood. Previous studies have found conflicting results with respect to the effects of these sex-specific hormones. The purpose of this study, a secondary analysis of data from a larger project, is to compare wound healing time and local cytokine levels between males and females. A psychoneuroimmunological framework for wound healing guided the choice of variables for this study. The specific aims are to compare 1) proinflammatory cytokines levels in blister wound fluid; and 2) days to complete healing between males and females. The initial study used a prospective, randomized experimental design to assess the effects of n-3 fatty acid supplements on wound healing. Volunteers were recruited from a university campus. The sample (n=30) consisted of healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 45 (13 males, 17 females). This study utilizes t-tests to compare demographic characteristics, pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in blister wound fluid at 5 and 24 hours post blister formation, and days to complete wound healing between male and female subjects. As we hypothesized, the results show that males required more days than females for complete healing and had significantly higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines IL-1 and TNF-alpha in wound blister fluid. The findings suggest that sex-specific interventions could possibly enhance wound healing, but additional knowledge is needed. Nursing science and practice may be advanced by incorporating the findings of the present study in future research endeavors.

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wound healing, sex differences

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