(HealthDay News) – Eccrine sweat glands, the most abundant appendage in human skin, unique to some primates, play a role in wound repair, according to a study published online Nov. 16 in The American Journal of Pathology.

Noting that other skin appendages are involved in wound repair in model animals, Laure Rittié, PhD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined the role of eccrine glands in human skin wound repair. Partial-thickness wounds were inflicted on healthy human forearms. Skin biopsy samples obtained during the first week after wounding were used to study epidermal repair. Immunohistochemistry and computer-assisted three-dimensional reconstruction of in vivo wounded skin samples were used to assess wound reepithelialization.

The researchers found that, after wounding, eccrine sweat glands played a key role in reconstituting the epidermis in humans. Eccrine sweat glands generated keratinocyte outgrowths which went on to form new epidermis. There was a parallel noted between the rate of expansion of keratinocyte outgrowths from eccrine sweat glands and the rate of reepithelialization.

“This novel appreciation of the unique importance of eccrine sweat glands for epidermal repair may be exploited to improve our approaches to understanding and treating human wounds,” the authors write.

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