Research described in The FASEB Journal implicates histatin.

Histatin, a small protein in human saliva, speeds wound healing, according to investigators from VU University Medical Center in The Netherlands. This compound was previously thought only to kill bacteria.

The researchers cultured epithelial cells that line the inner cheek in dishes until the surfaces were completely covered with these cells. Then they made an artificial wound in the cell layer in each dish. In one dish, cells were bathed in an isotonic fluid without any additions. In the other dish, cells were bathed in human saliva.

After 16 hours the scientists noticed that the saliva treated “wound” was almost completely closed. In the dish with the untreated “wound,” a substantial part was still open. This proved that human saliva contains a factor that accelerates wound closure in oral cells, the researchers explain.

They then split the saliva into its individual components, tested each in their wound model, and finally determined that histatin was responsible.

The study is published online before print in The FASEB Journal.

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