We followed the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA) in all animal procedures. The Committee on the Ethics of Animal Experiments of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (Shanghai, China) approved the study protocol.

Twenty-one male Lewis rats (6 weeks old) were allocated randomly to the stretching group (N = 18) and control group (N = 3). Rats in the stretching group were assigned randomly to six time points (N = 3 PER time point): 1, 2, 4, 24, 96, and 168 h. The rats were anesthetized (5% chloral hydrate, 250 mg/kg body weight) and 10-mL silicon expanders (Shanghai Xin Sheng Biomedical, Shanghai, China) were implanted subcutaneously on the dorsal sides. In the stretching group, 0.9% saline was injected through the port of the tissue expander to maintain 60 mmHg intracapsular pressure, while nothing was injected in the control group and the expander was kept uninflated. At each time point, full-thickness skin specimens from the stretched skin area were collected from the stretching group. From the control group, full-thickness skin specimens from the implanted area were collected at 168 h (7 days). The animals were euthanized immediately after sample collection.

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