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What is a Wound Healing Assay?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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A wound healing assay is a laboratory test where a researcher grows cells in culture, simulates a wound, and monitors the response of the cells. This test is used in research, rather than diagnosis, to learn more about the behavior of different kinds of cells in various conditions. It is possible to start a plate for the assay from scratch, or to order one from a scientific supply company. In labs where researchers make their own tissue cultures, they follow a precise procedure to achieve repeatable, testable results.

The process of creating a wound healing assay starts with growing some cells in culture. The researcher will monitor the growth of the tissue culture until it is clear that the cells are healthily dividing and spreading across the plate. Then, he scratches the plate to disrupt the cellular growth, creating a break in the cells that simulates an injury. The cells in culture respond just like cells in the body, with an attempt to fill the gap and close the wound.

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Researchers watch the healing under a microscope so they can see what is happening at a cellular level. The researcher tracks cell proliferation, looking at how quickly the cells grow in response to the injury, and also examines cell migration, watching the cells as they move across the gap to close the wound. The wound healing assay will have varying healing times, depending on the type of cells and the conditions, and the researcher can take a series of photographs to document the process.

Studying wound healing in culture provides substantial research opportunities. It is generally not ethical to deliberately injure human beings to study them, but researchers need to know how different kinds of cells respond to injury. Looking at them in a wound healing assay allows the researcher to control conditions, changing factors like the kinds of cells and the environment to see what happens. This information can help researchers make recommendations to medical providers when it comes to patient treatment and wound management.

Most labs with culturing abilities are able to perform wound healing assays. The researcher will need plates with nutrients to nourish the cells, along with a space for incubation and a microscope for analysis. In cases where a researcher uses a kit for a wound healing assay, she can order kits with various characteristics from a scientific supplier for different kinds of research tasks.

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