Direct visualization of a stratified epithelium reveals that wounds heal by unified sliding of cell sheets

Min Zhao, Bing Song, Jin Pu, John V. Forrester, Colin D. McCaig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Observing cells in their original niche is a key link between the information gleaned from planar culture and in vivo physiology and pathology. A new approach combining the transparency of the cornea, Hoffman modulation optics, and digital imaging allowed movements of individual corneal cells to be viewed directly in situ. 3-Dimensional time-lapse movies imaging unstained cells within the stratified corneal epithelium during wound healing were made. Tracking cell movements dynamically provided a definitive answer to the long-standing question: does a stratified epithelium heal by "sliding" of cell sheets as a coherent unit or do individual cells "leap frog" each other at the wound margin? A wound in the corneal epithelium healed primarily by sliding of the whole epithelium, with ∼5% of cells moving with similar speed and trajectories and with little change in their relative position. Only 5% of cells changed layers, with equal proportions moving up or down. Epithelial healing in situ occurred in three phases: a latency, migration, and reconstruction phase. This model provides a unique system to study the behaviors of individual cells in their original niche. It shows that cells slide into a wound as a unified unit to heal a stratified epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-406
Number of pages10
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell migration
  • Corneal epithelium
  • Corneal organ culture
  • Stratified epithelium
  • Wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Direct visualization of a stratified epithelium reveals that wounds heal by unified sliding of cell sheets'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this