Sweat Glands Play a Key Role in Healing Wounds: Study
A new study suggests that the glands which make us sweat and help our bodies calm down after a heavy workout or on a warm day, is also responsible for another vital function in our body - that of healing wounds.
There are millions of eccrine sweat glands in our body, which, according to researchers from University of Michigan Health System research, also play a significant role in providing cells for recovering skin wounds - such as scrapes, burns and ulcers.
"Skin ulcers - including those caused by diabetes or bed sores - and other non-healing wounds remain a tremendous burden on health services and communities around the world," says lead author Laure Rittié, Ph.D., research assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, according to Medical Xpress.
"Treating chronic wounds costs tens of billions of dollars annually in the United States alone, and this price tag just keeps rising. Something isn't working."
With this study, the researchers at U-M believe that they have discovered one of the body's most powerful secret weapons in healing.
"By identifying a key process of wound closure, we can examine drug therapies with a new target in mind: sweat glands, which are very under-studied," Rittié says. "We're hoping this will stimulate research in a promising, new direction."
Previously, researchers understood healing of wounds as the generation of new skin from hair follicles and from intact skin at the edge of the wound. The findings of the current study reveal that cells arise from beneath the wound, and the eccrine sweat glands have an important reservoir of adult stem cells that immediately aid wound healing, the report said.
"It may be surprising that it's taken until now to discover the sweat glands' vital role in wound repair," Rittié says. "But there's a good reason why these specific glands are under-studied - eccrine sweat glands are unique to humans and absent in the body skin of laboratory animals that are commonly used for wound healing research."
"We have discovered that humans heal their skin in a very unique way, different from other mammals," Rittié adds.
"The regenerative potential of sweat glands has been one of our body's best-kept secrets. Our findings certainly advance our understanding of the normal healing process and will hopefully pave the way for designing better, targeted therapies."
The findings were released online ahead of print in the American Journal of Pathology.