Cell to Cell and Cell to ECM Interactions in Wound Healing

Interaction of cells with other cells and with extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules is necessary for their survival. In addition, the distinct ECM niche in the cell’s microenvironment is a key regulator of differentiation during organogenesis and embryonic development. This niche is also an important regulator of cell functions during tissue homeostasis, inflammation, wound repair and pathological processes. Interactions of cells with each other is mediated by gap junctions (connexins) while cell to ECM interaction is mostly mediated by integrins. Connexins forming gap junctions allow transfer of small signaling molecules between cells, and synchronize them to operate as a unit. When they are present as hemichannels, they can also serve as conduits for paracrine signaling. Integrins, in turn, convey information into cells from ECM, and induce signaling cascades that regulate gene expression and cell functions. These signaling pathways collaborate with signals from other pathways. One of the major interests in the laboratory is to understand the mechanisms by which connexins, integrins and extracellular matrix molecules in the cellular microenvironment (niche) modulate cell adhesion, migration, growth and gene expression during wound healing and scar formation in skin and oral mucosa. Furthermore, we also study these processes in the development, homeostasis and pathological conditions in the oral mucosal, dental and periodontal tissues. For these purposes, our laboratory has developed novel animal, cell and organotypic culture models, and uses some of the latest techniques in cell and molecular biology, histology and microscopy.These collaborative studies have uncovered novel roles of αvβ6 integrin in wound healing, scar formation, tooth development and periodontal disease. The studies involving role of connexins in wound healing is a new field in the laboratory, and have uncovered novel functions of connexin 43 in human fibroblasts relevant for wound healing.


  • Lari Häkkinen
  • Hannu Larjava

Post Docs

  • Kenneth Mok (2000-2001)
  • Silke Strassburger (1999-2000)

Graduate Students

  • Rana Tarzemany (PhD 2010-)
  • Wesley Mah (MsC 2010-2013)
  • Georgios Giannelis (MSc 2010-2011)
  • Heidar Alimohamad (PhD 2003-2008)
  • Andrea Csiszar (MSc 2003-2006)
  • Stacey Matheson (MSc 2001-2003)

Other Students

  • Dylan Olver (2012-)
  • Kambiz Vatandoost (2013, 2014)
  • Ben Kim (2013)
  • Godwin Cheung (2012, 2013)
  • Seung Hyun Jae (2008-2010)
  • Ji Won Choi (2009)
  • Karen Mak (2007-2008)
  • Aleem Manji (2007, 2008, NORTH)
  • Joyce Wong (2006, NORTH)
  • Eileen Lo (2004, NORTH)

Visiting Scientists and Research Associates

  • Guoqiao Jiang (2003-)
  • Benjamin Fornier (2011-2012)
  • Noora Jaakkola (2011)
  • Olli Oksala (2008)
  • Jae-Jun Ryu (2005-2006)
  • Charles Lim (2003-2005)
  • Johanna Jokinen (2003)
  • Giang Wu (2000-2002)