Androgenic steroids induce pathologic scarring in a preclinical porcine model via dysfunctional extracellular matrix deposition. Academic Article uri icon


  • Hypertrophic scarring is a major source of morbidity. Sex hormones are not classically considered modulators of scarring. However, based on increased frequency of hypertrophic scarring in patients on testosterone, we hypothesized that androgenic steroids induce abnormal scarring and developed a preclinical porcine model to explore these effects. Mini-swine underwent castration, received no testosterone (noT) or biweekly testosterone therapy (+T), and underwent excisional wounding. To create a delayed wound healing model, a subset of wounds were re-excised at 2weeks. Scars from postoperative day 42 (POD42) and delayed wounds (POD28) were harvested 6weeks after initial wounding for analysis via histology, bulk RNA-seq, and mechanical testing. Histologic analysis of scars from +T animals showed increased mean fibrosis area (16mm2noT, 28mm2+T; p=.007) and thickness (0.246mm2noT, 0.406mm2+T; p<.001) compared to noT. XX+T and XY+T scars had greater tensile burst strength (p=.024 and p=.013, respectively) compared to noT swine.Color deconvolution analysis revealed greater deposition of type I and type III collagen as well as increased collagen type I:III ratio in +T scars. Dermatopathologist histology scoring showed that +T exposure was associated with worse overall scarring (p<.05). Gene ontology analysis found that testosterone exposure was associated with upregulation of cellular metabolism and immune response gene sets, while testosterone upregulated pathways related to keratinization and laminin formation on pathway analysis. In conclusion, we developed a preclinical porcine model to study the effects of the sex hormone testosterone on scarring. Testosterone induces increased scar tissue deposition and appears to increase physical strength of scars via supraphysiologic deposition of collagen and other ECM factors. The increased burst strength seen in both XX and XY animals suggests that hormone administration has a strong influence on scar mechanical properties independent of chromosomal sex. Anti-androgen topical therapies may be a promising future area of research.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Reiche, E., Keller, P. R., Soares, V., Schuster, C. R., Rahmayanti, S., Mroueh, J., ... Coon, D.

complete list of authors

  • Reiche, Erik||Keller, Patrick R||Soares, Vance||Schuster, Calvin R||Rahmayanti, Siti||Mroueh, Jessica||Mroueh, Vanessa||Billaud, Marie||Hu, Sophia||Hoover-Watson, Hunter||Lian, Christine G||Tan, Yu||Doloff, Joshua C||Newell-Fugate, Annie E||Coon, Devin

publication date

  • March 2024