Scientists have long known that wounds inside the mouth repair themselves very rapidly but the secret of this fast regeneration has largely remained a mystery.
To find clues, Ramiro Iglesias-Bartolome and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute in Washington, recruited a group of thirty healthy human volunteers and induced small wounds, either inside their mouths or on their skin. As the wounds healed over the next six days, the researchers collected biopsies at different time points.
Analysing which genes were active in the mouth compared to the skin revealed some notable differences. For one thing, genes associated with inflammation were less active in the oral wounds. On the other hand, the oral wounds showed greater activity of a gene that regulates stem cells, SOX2. When the researchers engineered mice that overproduced SOX2 in the outer layer of their skin, they found that skin wounds healed faster than compared to a control group.
Though these are early results, the authors say that their findings could help develop therapies to accelerate the healing process and improve wound care in patients.
The research is published in Science Translational Medicine.