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BACKGROUND: The host response to tissue injury requires a complex interplay of diverse cellular, humoral, and connective tissue elements. Fibroblasts participate in this process by proliferating within injured sites and contributing to scar formation and the longterm remodeling of damaged tissue. Fibroblasts present in areas of tissue injury generally have been regarded to arise by recruitment from surrounding connective tissue; however this may not be the only source of these cells. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Long-term culture of adherent, human, and murine leukocyte subpopulations was combined with a variety of immunofluorescence and functional analyses to identify a blood-borne cell type with fibroblast-like properties. RESULTS: We describe for the first time a population of circulating cells with fibroblast properties that specifically enter sites of tissue injury. This novel cell type, termed a "fibrocyte," was characterized by its distinctive phenotype (collagen+/vimentin+/CD34+), by its rapid entry from blood into subcutaneously implanted wound chambers, and by its presence in connective tissue scars. CONCLUSIONS: Blood-borne fibrocytes contribute to scar formation and may play an important role both in normal wound repair and in pathological fibrotic responses.