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“It’s okay, wounds in your mouth heal fast”

By: Mila Bjelica

posted: May 3rd, 2019

I distinctly remember as young girl in kindergarten I bit my cheek while chewing during lunch time. To my utter horror, I tasted blood in my mouth. Like any overly dramatic young child, I ran straight to my teacher to complain and have her take a look at it, sure to get a reaction and elicit some sympathy and comfort. And while she did comfort me, she also met me with a surprising reaction: “that’s okay, the mouth heals fast”. I never understood what exactly she meant by this. Why would the mouth heal any faster than other parts of the body? Yet, it did heal within a week or so (I currently have a whole, functional cheek, and no evidence that the accident ever happened remains).  I took this fact to heart, preaching left, right and center to everyone that would listen that the mouth heals fast - whatever that means…


Interestingly enough, this is backed by science. Oral wound healing is considered the optimal model for wound resolution as it fast and scar-less. Iglesias-Bartolome et al. compared wound healing at cutaneous (skin of inner arm) and oral mucosa (lining of inner cheek) sites by performing a 3 mm biopsy method (inducing a wound) at both sites in each participant. It was seen that the wound from the oral mucosa was already covered in squamous epithelium at 3 days of healing, while the skin wound was still 3 mm wide and visible. To gain insight into why this may be, the same study analyzed pre- and post- wound tissues from both sites to determine any potential differences in gene expression. It was found that wound repair is primarily mediated by keratinocytes (cells that made up the epidermis). They suggest that keratinocytes of the oral mucosa are still undifferentiated and primed to restrict inflammation to promote healing faster.  


Importantly, the authors believe that there is potential to use transcriptional networks present in these oral cells (mediated by transcription factors SOX2 and PITX1) in order to induce this same phenotype in skin keratinocytes. This technology could help promote faster, more efficient wound healing in those experiencing chronic non-healing wounds such as ulcers.