Molecular Mechanisms in Scar Formation

Scar formation following injury to skin is a common, unwanted outcome of the wound healing process. Some years ago, as a clinician scientists, we took a note that following surgeries, oral mucosal wounds in the gingiva rarely formed any types of scars. Previous studies using mostly rodent models, that do not very well compare with human situation, also had shown that in oral mucosa wound healing was faster than in skin. To systematically analyze whether, indeed, oral mucosa also forms less scars than skin wounds, we developed a red Duroc model, that has been shown to well mimic human skin wound healing resulting to pathological hypertrophic-like scar formation. Using this model, our recent findings have shown for the first time that oral mucosal wound healing results to significantly reduced scar formation as compared to similar skin wounds. This model now allows us to systematically assess the molecular and cellular signaling networks that are differently regulated in oral mucosal and skin wounds in an animal model that is relevant to the human situation. Data mining using gene expression profiling, proteomics and other tools, has provided us with novel targets to alleviate skin scarring. In addition, our recently developed cell culture tools have provided novel information about the properties of fibroblasts that may be responsible for the wound healing differences in oral mucosa and skin, and maybe harnessed for development of novel skin wound healing modalities. Our previous expertise in other animal models, histological and immunohistochemical techniques, various cell and molecular biology techniques assessing cell-extracellular matrix interaction, proteases, and in fibroblasts and epithelial cell biology will further help to reach this goal. Collectively, these studies have resulted to a number of publications describing distinct features of oral wound healing and phenotypic properties of human gingival fibroblasts at molecular, cellular and tissue level. We have also recently published several invited book chapters and review articles on these topics. As a new field that relates to oral mucosal wound healing, we have recently established a collaboration with researchers in France to study properties of human gingival mesenchymal stem cells, and discovered their novel cartilage and synovial-like differentiation potential.


  • 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)