Scientists from the Netherlands say that a compound, which they have identified in human saliva, greatly speeds wound healing, according to their report published in The Journal of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).
The study's findings may offer hope to people suffering from chronic wounds related to diabetes and other disorders, as well as traumatic injuries and burns.
In addition, because the compounds can be mass-produced, they have the potential to become as common as antibiotic creams and rubbing alcohol.
"We hope our finding is ultimately beneficial for people who suffer from non-healing wounds, such as foot ulcers and diabetic ulcers, as well as for treatment of trauma-induced wounds like burns," said Menno Oudhoff, first author of the report.
Specifically, scientists found that histatin, a small protein in saliva previously only believed to kill bacteria was responsible for the healing.
To come to this conclusion, the researchers used epithelial cells that line the inner cheek, and cultured in dishes until the surfaces were completely covered with cells.
Then they made an artificial wound in the cell layer in each dish, by scratching a small piece of the cells away. In one dish, cells were bathed in an isotonic fluid without any additions.
In the other dish, cells were bathed in human saliva. After 16 hours the scientists noticed that the saliva treated "wound" was almost completely closed. In the dish with the untreated "wound," a substantial part of the "wound" was still open.
This proved that human saliva contains a factor, which accelerates wound closure of oral cells. Because saliva is a complex liquid with many components, the next step was to identify which component was responsible for wound healing.
Using various techniques the researchers split the saliva into its individual components, tested each in their wound model, and finally determined that histatin was responsible.