BACKGROUND: Burn blister fluid contains several angiogenic factors to promote wound neovascularization. In our previous study, we found that deep partial-thickness burn (DPTB) wounds showed higher expression levels of angiogenin to enhance vascularization compared with superficial partial-thickness burn wounds. Neovascularization is a complex process that involves an interaction between circulating angiogenic cells and mediators. We hypothesized that in addition to angiogenic factors burn blisters may contain specific cell types. The aim of the present study was to characterize the specific cells present in burn blisters. METHODS: Twenty-four burn blister fluid samples were obtained with informed consent from patients with superficial partial-thickness burn (n = 16) or DPTB (n = 8) wounds. Blister cells were isolated from individual intact blisters and characterized with flow cytometry analysis using CD14, CD34, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2, and CD133 markers. CD14 and CD34 blister cells were also isolated using a magnetic-activated cell sorting system to examine their potential for endothelial differentiation. Angiogenin levels in the burn blister fluids were evaluated with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. RESULTS: CD14 cells were the most highly represented cell type in the burn fluids of both groups, although a significantly greater percentage of CD14 cells were observed in DPTB fluids. CD14 blister cells had a higher potency to differentiate into functional endothelial cells as compared with CD34 cells. The proportion of CD14 cells gradually increased after burn injury. In contrast to CD14 cells, angiogenin showed the highest expression levels at day 1 postburn. With regard to burn wound neovascularization, angiogenin expression was partially correlated with CD14 blister cells in the burn fluids. CONCLUSIONS: We provide the first report on the characterization of blister cells in burn fluids. Our data suggest that CD14 blister cells may play a role in burn wound neovascularization. Measurement of CD14 blister cells serves as a possible tool for assessing burn wound status.
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