Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Researchers from the University of Michigan recently discovered that sweat glands can impact how human wounds heal, thus paving the way for new, effective therapies that can deal with diabetic ulcers and other conditions.
To begin, the human skin has millions of eccrine sweat glands that allow the body to cool down. Individuals can notice the reduction in heat in places like the gym, where the body will gradually change from hot to cold during a workout. Interesting enough, while sweat glands are found in primates like humans, they are not found in laboratory animals such as pigs, rabbits, and rodents. The scientists believe that the glands can also help provide needed cells to recover from wounds like burns, ulcers or scrapes.
“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,” remarked the study´s lead author Laure RittiÃ©, a research assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, in a prepared statement. “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 the findings, the team of investigators stated that the glands could possibly be used to develop treatments to heal wounds.
“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,” explained RittiÃ© in the statement. “We´re hoping this will stimulate research in a promising, new direction.”
In addition, the study showed that sweat glands can produce keratinocyte outgrowths that can create new epidermis.
“It may be surprising that it´s taken until now to discover the sweat glands´ vital role in wound repair,” continued RittiÃ© in the statement. “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.”
Furthermore, the results showed that the rate at which keratinocyte outgrowth expands from eccrine sweat glands is similar to the rate of reepithelialization, otherwise known as wound healing.
“We have discovered that humans heal their skin in a very unique way, different from other mammals,” concluded RittiÃ© in the statement. “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 new research comes at a particular important time as health providers continue to investigate the prevention of and treatment of ulcers related to diabetes. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an ulcer appears when there has been a breakdown in the skin and lesions are common results of ulcers. Ulcers can be serious as infections of an ulcer can lead to negative outcomes and need to be dealt with local and system therapy. An estimated 15 percent of people suffering from diabetes will develop foot ulceration sometime during their life.
The results of the study were recently published in the American Journal of Pathology.