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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Note on Emerging Science

Air Date: Week of

New research shows that licking your wounds, literally, might be good for you. Jessica Ilyse Smith reports.


GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman. Coming up: the tree whisperer speaks.

But first this Note on Emerging Science from Jessica Ilyse Smith.

SMITH: We get a lot from our pets—love, affection, even adventure…but, health care lessons?


SMITH: Now, A group of scientists from the Netherlands has determined that perhaps we too should lick our wounds. The researchers used cells from the inside of a human mouth to test if human saliva carries wound-healing properties. They grew the cells in Petri dishes and crafted artificial wounds. Half of the dishes were doused in human saliva and half were left untouched. After 16 hours, the dishes showed that the wounds treated with saliva were mostly closed, while the untreated wounds had not healed!

By isolating different salivary compounds and redoing the test, the scientists identified that the compound histatin was the healing ingredient in human saliva. Histatin is a protein that has strong fungicidal and anti-microbial properties, which account for its wound-healing function.

This finding has broad applications, since histatin-like compounds can be synthetically manufactured on a large scale. In the first round of studies, the researchers used simplified wound models; future experiments will test tissue-like wounds. There is hope that histatin will be a good candidate for a broad array of wound-healing—anything from minor cuts to treatment from burns and surgery.

So, next time you return from a day of rolling around in the sun with your dog—follow his lead and lick your wounds!

That’s this week’s note on emerging science; I’m Jessica Ilyse Smith.



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