Sweat glands not only helps to cool down the body but also plays a vital role in healing wounds, according to a new study.
Human skin is rich with millions of eccrine sweat glands that help your body cool down after a trip to the gym or on a warm day.
According to the University of Michigan Health System research, these same glands also happen to play a key 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," lead author Laure Rittie, Ph.D., research assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said.
"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," Rittie said.
Now, U-M researchers believe 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," Rittie says.
"We're hoping this will stimulate research in a promising, new direction," Rittie added.
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 U-M 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. 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," ," Rittie said.
"We have discovered that humans heal their skin in a very unique way, different from other mammals.
"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 professor said.
The findings were published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Pathology.