Eccrine sweat glands are skin-associated epithelial structures (appendages) that are unique to some primates including humans and are absent in the skin of most laboratory animals including rodents, rabbits, and pigs. On the basis of the known importance of other skin appendages (hair follicles, apocrine glands, and sebaceous glands) for wound repair in model animals, the present study was designed to assess the role of eccrine glands in the repair of wounded human skin. Partial-thickness wounds were generated on healthy human forearms, and epidermal repair was studied in skin biopsy samples obtained at precise times during the first week after wounding. Wound reepithelialization was assessed using immunohistochemistry and computer-assisted 3-dimensional reconstruction of in vivo wounded skin samples. Our data demonstrate a key role for eccrine sweat glands in reconstituting the epidermis after wounding in humans. More specifically, (i) eccrine sweat glands generate keratinocyte outgrowths that ultimately form new epidermis; (ii) eccrine sweat glands are the most abundant appendages in human skin, outnumbering hair follicles by a factor close to 3; and (iii) the rate of expansion of keratinocyte outgrowths from eccrine sweat glands parallels 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.
Copyright © 2013 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.