Licking your wounds: scientists isolate compound in human saliva that speeds wound healing


A report by scientists from The Netherlands published online in The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) identifies a compound in human saliva that greatly speeds wound healing. This research 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.

“This study not only answers the biological question of why animals lick their wounds,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, “it also explains why wounds in the mouth, like those of a tooth extraction, heal much faster than comparable wounds of the skin and bone. It also directs us to begin looking at saliva as a source for new drugs.”

This article is scheduled for final publication in the November 2008 issue of The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), which is published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is the most cited biology journal worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information. FASEB comprises 21 nonprofit societies with more than 80,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB advances biological science through collaborative advocacy for research policies that promote scientific progress and education and lead to improvements in human health.

http://www.fasebj.org/Press_Room/08_112003_July_2008.shtml


5 Responses to Licking your wounds: scientists isolate compound in human saliva that speeds wound healing

  1. Anonymous July 25, 2008 at 10:30 am #

    Good luck licking wounds on your back, if you don’t like the idea of mass producing the agent in saliva that helps speed healing. And you sure won’t find me licking the wounds of other people! I say go for the mass production!

  2. Anonymous July 23, 2008 at 10:46 pm #

    Next maybe bandages can be treated with histatin.

    Proto-tech offers a complete line of biomaterials testing machines including fatigue tester and oral wear simulator at http://www.oralwear.net

  3. Anonymous July 23, 2008 at 2:44 pm #

    Maybe this is why animals lick their wounds?

    I have a cut on my finger that I have been pouring H2O2 on. Now I’ve added my saliva. So how often do I have to lick my finger? :)

  4. Anonymous July 23, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    Can be mass produced? In addition to having children?

    Honestly, I am still chuckling over the concept of mass producing a compound that is in your saliva so that people can buy it…

    I think licking yourself takes out the middleman and saves you some money. Better yet, hire yourself as a professional licker and charge for healing wounds.

  5. Anonymous July 23, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    My first reaction was “what the heck is that”. I zoomed in and LOL. :-)

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