Repair and Regeneration of the Wounded Cell Membrane

  • Michael J. Poellmann
  • Raphael C. Lee
Review Paper


Cell membrane disruption is a common consequence of physical and chemical trauma in biological systems. It has fundamental significance in pathogenesis of trauma-mediated tissue injury and is the root cause of many secondary injury processes—edema, inflammation, tissue necrosis, etc.—that are the therapeutic focus of most clinical trauma interventions. Natural plasmalemma sealing mechanisms allow cells to handle routine environmental and physiological stresses. Lethal cell membrane disruption occurs when injury exceeds these mechanisms. Substantial progress has been made in the development of therapeutics to augment sealing of disrupted plasmalemma membranes. Today, therapeutics specifically targeted to seal wounded membranes is not a focus of current clinical trauma therapy. This review describes (1) how various forms of trauma result in membrane wounding, (2) the natural cell membrane healing mechanisms that cells rely upon to repair a wounded plasmalemma membrane, and (3) chemical design existing and emerging treatments designed to supplement the repair response. Our purpose is to emphasize the importance of stabilizing the plasmalemma for cellular resuscitation and to encourage the development of membrane sealing therapies for traumatic injury.

Lay Summary

An intact membrane is critical for cellular survival, but membranes are disrupted in a variety of traumatic injuries. In this paper, we review the process of cellular wounding and the innate mechanisms of membrane repair. We then provide a comprehensive overview of biocompatible polymers shown to promote cellular resuscitation by reinforcing or resealing the plasmalemma. The purpose of this review is to identify common properties of polymeric membrane sealants and to stimulate further development of these therapeutic macromolecules for traumatic injury.


Cellular injury Membrane repair Traumatic injury Poloxamer Polyethylene glycol 



This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences through the T32 Training Grant GM099697. We would like to thank Colin McFaul, Kristen Jakubowski, Nosheen Gothard, and all former members of the Laboratory for Molecular Regeneration.


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Copyright information

© The Regenerative Engineering Society 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, Committee on Molecular Medicine, and Institute for Molecular EngineeringUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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