Sex differences in susceptibility to ischemia/reperfusion injury have been documented in humans. Premenopausal women have a lower risk of ischemic heart disease than age-matched men, whereas after menopause, the risk is similar or even higher in women. However, little is known about the effects of sex on myocutaneous ischemia/reperfusion. To explore sex differences in wound revascularization, we utilized a murine myocutaneous flap model of graded ischemia. A cranial-based, peninsular-shaped, myocutaneous flap was surgically created on the dorsum of male and female mice. Physiological, pathological, immunohistochemical, and molecular parameters were analyzed. Flaps created on female mice were re-attached to the recipient site resulting in nearly complete viability at post-operative day 10. In contrast, distal full-thickness myocutaneous necrosis was evident at 10 days post-surgery in male mice. Over the 10 day study interval, laser speckle imaging documented functional revascularization in all flap regions in female mice, but minimal distal flap reperfusion in male mice. Day 10 immunostained histologic sections confirmed significant increases in distal flap vessel count and vascular surface area in female compared to male mice. RT-PCR demonstrated significant differences in growth factor and metabolic gene expression between female and male mice at day 10. In conclusion, in a graded-ischemia wound healing model, flap revascularization was more effective in female mice. The recognition and identification of sex-specific wound healing differences may lead to a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of myocutaneous revascularization and drive novel discovery to improve soft tissue wound healing following tissue transfer for traumatic injury and cancer resection.
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