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Sweat Glands Play Major Role in Wound Healing, Research Shows

Finding paves way for new approaches to wound closure (Nov. 20)

Human skin contains millions of eccrine sweat glands that help the body cool down. These same glands also play a key role in providing cells for recovering skin wounds, such as scrapes, burns, and ulcers, according to new research from the University of Michigan Health System.

The findings were published online in the American Journal of Pathology.

“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,” said lead author Laure Rittié, PhD. “We’re hoping this will stimulate research in a promising, new direction.”

Previous understanding of wound closure was that new skin cells originate from hair follicles and from intact skin at the edge of the wound. The new findings demonstrate that cells arise from beneath the wound, and suggest that human eccrine sweat glands also store an important reservoir of adult stem cells that can quickly be recruited to aid wound healing.

“It may be surprising that it’s taken until now to discover the sweat glands’ vital role in wound repair,” Rittié commented. “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,” she added. “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.”

Source: University of Michigan Health System; November 20, 2012.

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