Question may sound bit poetic but I have a pretty basic question here: Often we get a minor wound and cells renew and quickly "cover" it. But when we have deeper wounds, often they leave behind scars. Why does it happen?

I was researching around and saw this comment on a related question:

That's not true - some cells turn over quite quickly, others take months or years, others never replicate.

But how come we get some wounds "completely filled", while others leave scars on almost the same skin/body part? And ok, if a deeper cut has resulted in inner (different type of cells) being damaged, why do we find the scar on epidermis?

Thanks a lot for your guidance.

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    $\begingroup$ Scar is mostly collagen( a fibre, not cell) $\endgroup$
    – JM97
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ I think you will get all your answers here. I can add this as an answer if others in the community don't tend to close it as off-topic... $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2017 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


Scar tissue formation is part of the normal healing process in which fibrous material braces and pulls the wound together, in other organisms (and young mammals) this process is mild and just serves to temporarily reinforce the damaged tissue as new cells migrate in to begin replacing the missing tissue, sometimes to the point of replacing missing limbs in lizards and amphibians. However in adult mammals and birds the process of fibrous tissue is far more exaggerated, creating longer lasting or even permanent scars, Here the wound keeps filling in with more and more fibrous tissue instead of moving on to regenerating what was there originally. This dense fibrous tissue often prevents new cells from easily migrate into the tissue, essentially stalling the healing process. It seals the wound much faster than the more mild deposition of other animals but can often prevents replacement of the fibrous tissue which would otherwise happen as the missing tissues is regenerated. This mass of fibrous tissue is what we call a Hypertrophic scar. this is why scars can also fade, as cells often can migrate in and slowly replace the the matrix but this is severely limited by the dense packing.

Note there is a second rarer form of scar tissue that can form, called keloid scarring. This form of scar spreads beyond the original wound area and seems to be caused by some form of runaway extracellular matrix deposition. It should also be noted adult mammals sometimes do regenerate decent portions of tissue, albeit not well, possibly because some of the controlling cellular signalling machinery has be lost or reappropriated. All the factors that affect this are not understood and are a main focus researched. We do know it varies quite a bit from tissue to tissue and is not terribly consistent.

It is believed that mammals and birds develop this stronger matrix deposition which leads to permanent scar tissue becasue healing fast is more important for them than healing completely since their metabolism runs so much higher. They can't wait around for it to heal they need to get moving as soon as possible or risk starvation,additionally a stable body temp makes for a more inviting environment for bacteria so sealing the wound is paramount. Thus sealing and mechanically reinforcing the wound is more important than regeneration. As you can imagine the worse the injury the more important it is to plug it fast which is why minor injuries are less likely to scar. This is also why lizards and amphibians end up with less permanent scars they can take the time to better regenerate the tissue. Of course this is difficult hypothesis to test, however there has been some success in getting mammalian tissue to regenerate more by removing scar tissue as it forms or just preventing collagen production.

Evolution is one lang story of "good enough" and scar tissue is good enough functionally that the speed at which it can seal a wound favors it over slower regeneration.

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    $\begingroup$ @another'Homosapien' It isn't the same meaning as in chemistry. Endotherms are warm-blooded animals. But I don't see any reason to connect endo versus ectothermy to scar tissue formation... $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 6, 2017 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ This is a teleological proposal of (perhaps) why scar tissue forms, not an actual answer. Scar tissue formation is not a fast process. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2017 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse it is compared to regeneration. Scarring is just the inflammatory and fibrous tissue formation of the healing process run rampant, it interrupts further complete regenerative healing other organisms experience. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 7, 2017 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ Then write that as your answer, not a teleological proposal. I don't think it's quite "run rampant". Aggressive cancers are "run rampant". Healing is physiological. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2017 at 3:19
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse I did write it up as well as why it evolved in the first place. The OP asked "why?" which is ultimately a question of what would cause such a seemingly counterproductive mechanism to evolve in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 7, 2017 at 4:10

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