Scientists have discovered properties in saliva that speed up the healing process. This revelation explains why cuts in the mouth heal faster, and could lead to the development of improved treatment for other wounds.
University of Chile Professor Vicente Torres and his research team set out to determine why mouth cuts heal faster and better than wounds outside of the mouth. Prior to this study, the role of saliva in healing was not fully understood.
“Saliva is a key factor that contributes to the high efficiency of wound healing in the inside of the mouth,” said Torres. “This is not only attributed to physical cues but also to the presence of specific peptides in the saliva, such as histatins.”
The scientists analyzed the effects of histatin-1 on the development of new blood vessels. The team used healthy samples of chicken embryos, human skin, and blood vessel cells.
“Histatin-1 is an antimicrobial peptide, highly enriched in human saliva, which has been previously reported to promote the migration of oral skin cells in lab animals,” explained Torres.
The study, published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, revealed the protein histatin-1 found in saliva speeds up healing by boosting the formation of blood vessels. Histatin-1 molecules also improved the contact and behavior of the migrating cells.
“Specifically, histatin-1 promoted skin cell contact and spreading as well as migration in the wound closure tests,” said Torres. “Finally, we showed that salivary histatin-1 is required for the pro migratory effects of saliva on skin cells.”
The researchers have already started using these histatins to develop materials and implants to aid in wound healing.
“These findings open new alternatives to better understand the biology underlying the differences between oral and skin wound healing,” said Torres. “We believe the study could help the design of better approaches to improve wound healing in tissues other than the mouth.”