Researchers at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands bathed injured skin in saliva or a saltwater solution. Sixteen hours later, they compared the samples and found that the cut treated with saliva had healed 30 percent faster.
The finding wasn't a complete surprise; saliva contains more than 200 compounds, many of which have, in previous research, proved capable of preventing cavities, fighting fungi, and even protecting against HIV transmission. Yet the Dutch researchers did uncover something new: Although they assumed growth hormones were responsible for the accelerated healing time, the catalysts were actually proteins called histatins.
"We stumbled upon the discovery," says Menno Oudhoff, the study's lead investigator. "It's a surprising finding." One reason for Oudhoff's excitement is that histatins are easier to synthesize in the lab than growth hormones, and they can be mass-produced cheaply. Which means histatin-infused products such as bandages, creams, and gauze could be available within a decade.