If you have been following our blogs, you are probably aware that sweat glands do more than just sweat. To a certain extent, its name does it a disservice as more evidence points to a variety of roles played by these tiny subdermal structures. Most of our readers are equally aware that eccrine sweat glands are vital in controlling our internal body temperature. We also learned that sweat glands do not only respond to thermal factors but to non-thermal signals such as body fluid pressure (or volume) and contracting muscles (April 2013 blog). More recently (June 2013 blog), research has demonstrated that sweat glands played a major role in human evolution, and perhaps, may have contributed to the development of a brain larger than some of our related homonid species.
Just when I thought these tiny sweat factories had played out all of their roles, new insights in the process of wound healing have emerged once again implicated the importance of sweat glands. Skin specialist from the University of Michigan have recently uncovered that sweat glands help heal scrapes, burns and ulcers. For some time now, traditional thinking dictated that wound healing started by the proliferation of skin cells or keratinocytes (pronounced: care-a-tino-sites). The process of generating skin cells originating from hair follicles and from the wound's edges.
The new discovery suggests that skin cells also originate from the base of the injury where sweat glands act as a reservoir of stem cells. These so called stem cells are a type of cell that, with a few alterations, become skin cells. In fact, stem cells are also called multipotential cells because, depending on the alteration, have the potential to differentiate into a number of different types of cells.
Researchers believe this opens the door for possible new therapies that would be targeted at sweat glands in efforts to help wounds repair more rapidly. This is of particular importance in individuals that suffer from ulcers and life-threatening burns which are prone to infection.
In my next post, we talk about a sweating application on smartphones...believe it or not. Stay tuned!