Sweat Glands Are A Source of Stem Cells for Wound Healing


Stem Cells from human sweat glands serve as a remarkable source for wound healing treatments according to a laboratory in Lübeck, Germany.

Professor Charli Kruse, who serves as the head of the Fraunhofer Research Institute for Marine Biotechnology EMB, Lübeck, Germany, and his colleagues isolated cultured pancreatic cells in the course of their research to look into the function of a protein called Vigilin. When the pancreatic cells were grown in culture, they produced, in addition to other pancreatic cells, nerve and muscle cells. Thus the pancreas contains a stem cell population that can differentiate into different cell types.

Kruse and his group decided to investigate other glands contained a similar stem cell population that could differentiate into other cell types.

Kruse explained: “We worked our way outward from the internal organs until we got to the skin and the sweat glands. Again, this yielded the same result: a Petri dish full of stem cells.”

Up to this point, sweat glands have not received much attention from researchers. Mice and rats only have sweat glands on their paws, which makes them rather inaccessible. Human beings, on the other hand, have up to three million sweat glands, predominantly on the soles of out feet, palms of the hand, armpits, and forehead.

Ideally, a patient could have stem cells taken from her own body to heal an injury, wound, or burn, Getting to these endogenous stem cell populations, however, represents a challenge, since it requires bone marrow biopsies or aspirations, liposuction, or some other invasive procedure.

Sweat glands, however, are significantly easier to find, and a short inpatient visit to your dermatologist that extracts three millimeters of underarm skin could provide enough stem cells to grow in culture for treatments.

Stem cells from sweat glands have the capacity to aid wound healing. Kruse and his group used sweat gland-based stem cells in laboratory animals. The Kruse group used skin biopsies from human volunteers and separated out the sweat gland tissues under a dissecting scope. Then the sweat gland stem cells were grown in culture and induced to differentiate into a whole host of distinct cell types.

Then Kruse’s team grew these sweat gland stem cells in a skin-like substrate that were applied to wounds on the backs of laboratory animals. Those animals that had received stem cell applications healed faster than those that received no stem cells.

If the stem cells were applied to the mice with the artificial substrate, the cells moved into the bloodstream and migrated away from the site of the injury. In order to help heal the wound the cells had to integrate into the skin and participate in the healing process.

“Not only are stem cells from sweat glands easy to cultivate, they are extremely versatile, too,” said Kruse.

Kruse and his team are already in the process of testing a treatment for macular degeneration using sweat gland-based stem cells. “In the long-term, we could possibly set up a cell bank for young people to store stem cells from their own sweat glands/ They would then be available for use should the person need new cells, following an illness,l perhaps, or in the event of an accident,” Kruse said.

Sweat Glands Are A Source of Stem Cells for Healing Wounds


When I was a kid, I used to wish that I had no sweat glands. Sweating made me sticky, wet and miserable. Little did I now, that without sweat glands, my body would have quickly overheated to fatal levels. A new study now shows that sweat glands are also the source of healing for wounds.

Human skin contains millions of eccrine sweat glands. These glands are not connected to hair follicles and they function throughout our lives to regulate the temperature of the body. Sweat glands respond to elevated bodily temperatures by secreting a mixture of NaCl and water. The water cools the external bodily temperature and is used to secrete other unwanted molecules. This is the main reason our sweat can smell like the food we ate (garlic, onions, etc.).

A new study by from the University of Michigan Health System shows that sweat glands play a key role in providing cells for recovering skin wounds, such as scrapes, burns and ulcers. These results were recently published in the American Journal of Pathology.

“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,” says lead author of this work, Laure Rittié, who is a research assistant professor of dermatology at the Univ. of Michigan Medical School. She continued, “Treating chronic wounds costs tens of billions of dollars annually in the U.S. alone, and this price tag just keeps rising. Something isn’t working.”

U of M researchers believe they have discovered one of the body’s most powerful secret healers.

“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,” Rittié says. “We’re hoping this will stimulate research in a promising, new direction.”

Previously, wound healing was thought to originate from cells that came from hair follicles and from intact skin at the edge of the wound. However, the findings from the U of M research group demonstrate that cells arise from beneath the wound, and suggest that human eccrine sweat glands are the source of an important reservoir of adult stem cells that can quickly be recruited to aid wound healing.

Rittié commented: “It may be surprising that it’s taken until now to discover the sweat glands’ vital role in wound repair. 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.” Rittié continued: “We have discovered that humans heal their skin in a very unique way, different from other mammals. 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.”