The process of wound repair involves an ordered sequence of events such as overlapping biochemical and cellular events that, in the best of circumstances, result in the restoration of both the structural and functional integrity of the damaged tissue. An important event during wound healing is the contraction of newly formed connective tissues by fibroblasts. The polypeptide growth factors, like transforming growth factor-
, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF- I) and epidermal growth factor (EGF), play very important mediator roles in the process of wound contraction. Deer antlers, as models of mammalian regeneration, are cranial appendages that develop after birth as extensions of a permanent protuberance (pedicle) on the frontal bone. Antlers contain various growth factors which stimulate dermal fibroblast growth. They are involved in digestion and respiration and are necessary for normal wound healing and skin health. In order to investigate and evaluate the effects of red deer antlers on skin wound site, the speed of full-thickness skin wound healing and the expression of IGF-I, TGF-
and EGF in skin wounds, three groups of skin full-thickness rat models with a high concentration of antler ointment, a low concentration of antler ointment and without antler ointment were compared. At post-injury days 0, 2, 4, 8, 16, 20, 32, 40 and 60, the skin wound area was measured, the expressions of IGF-I, TGF-
and EGF mRNA were detected by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and collagen formation by sirius red dye and the localization of IGF-I, TGF-
and EGF peptides were inspected by histological immunohistochemical techniques. Wound healing was significantly more rapid in antler treated skins. In addition, the wound treated with a high concentration antler ointment, a low concentration antler ointment, and the control closed completely at post-injury day 40, day 44 and day 60, respectively. Via RT-PCR, the expressions of IGF-I (day 8 and day 16), TGF-
(day 8, day 16 and day 20) and EGF (day 4, day 8, day 16, and day 32) were obviously up-regulated in high concentration antler-treated skins compared to control skins. Similar results could be seen in the histological detection of collagen dye and immunohistochemical methods using the corresponding polyclone antibodies of IGF-I, TGF-
and EGF. These results illustrate that antlers stimulate and accelerate the repair of cutaneous wounds.