Researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor have reported that eccrine sweat glands may play a role in wound healing. The article, which was published on Nov. 16, 2012, in the American Journal of Pathology, suggests that eccrine sweat glands rather than hair follicles and surrounding skin may fuel the reepithelialization of human wounds. The researchers believe this understanding could lead to improved wound treatments.
The researchers chose to study the role of eccrine sweat glands in human wound healing based on the importance of other skin appendages such as hair follicles, apocrine glands and sebaceous glands in wound repair in model animals. While eccrine sweat glands are not present in most laboratory animals, they are in primates such as humans, which are the only mammals to have the glands throughout the body.
To study the gland's role in wound healing, partial-thickness wounds were generated on healthy human forearms of 31 volunteers using two passes of a carbon dioxide laser. Full-thickness punch biopsy samples were then obtained at precise times during the first week after wounding. Wound reepithelialization was assessed using immunohistochemistry and computer-assisted 3-dimensional reconstruction of in vivo wounded skin samples.
It was found that eccrine sweat glands beneath the wound generated keratinocyte outgrowths three days after wounding that ultimately form the new epidermis. The rate of expansion of keratinocyte outgrowths from eccrine sweat glands paralleled the rate of reepithelialization. At four days after wounding, eccrine sweat glands underlying the wound were positive for a marker of proliferative cells. In unwounded skin, few eccrine glands are positive for this marker. The findings suggest that human eccrine sweat glands may store stem cells that can quickly be supplied to aid wound healing. The researchers believe their findings may lead to improved treatment of human wounds and may benefit skin cell isolation techniques for therapy.