Two main facts were brought to light by the preceding experiments: first, the presence of growth-activating substances in the leucocytes; second, the setting free of these substances in tissues and fluids where leucocytes accumulate. The existence of growth-promoting substances within the body of the leucocytes was to be expected. Leucocytes are embryonic cells and it is well known that embryonic tissues contain substances which stimulate cell proliferation. But the experiments gave a direct experimental proof of this fact. Then, during the whole life and even in extreme old age, there is a supply of growth-promoting substances within the organism which is potentially capable of restoring the activity of the resting cells. Embryonic tissue juice, as is known, can rejuvenate cells which have ceased to multiply in vitro and show evidences of degeneration. If the growth-activating substances of leucocytes can be transferred in vivo to tissue cells, they may play a similar rôle.
Therefore, it was important to find out whether the growth-activating substances were set free either by the secretions of the living leucocytes or by diffusion from the body of the cells after they were injured or dead, and whether this phenomenon occurred actually in vivo. Indeed, the idea that leucocytes secrete substances necessary to normal physiological processes is by no means new. Long ago, Ranvier described the lymph cells as mobile unicellular glands, and Renaut thought that their function was to bring to fixed cells the necessary food material. This rôle of the leucocytes was considered by him as absolutely essential. According to his theory, differentiated cells could not live in the absence of the lymph cells, which supply them with the substances required for their activity. The presence of such substances in the leucocytes was shown by our experiments and the growth-activating power acquired by inflamed connective tissue demonstrated that the leucocytes could actually bring these substances to the fixed cells.
Under certain conditions, this property of the white cells of the blood may cause the resumption of the activity of tissues which are in a resting state. In the adult organism, the tissues have ceased to grow and the blood plasma has acquired marked inhibiting properties. But growth-promoting substances are still stored in leucocytes, glands, and muscle tissue. The leucocytes could supply fibroblasts or epithelial cells with the necessary food material if they were present where cell proliferation is needed. The existence of mechanisms causing leucocytes to invade tissues in need of repair is certain. The initiation of healing seems to depend on the coming of the leucocytes to the wounded tissue. When they are missing, as happens when the wound is protected from all external irritation, cicatrization is greatly delayed. On the contrary, when staphylococci, turpentine, and other irritants are applied at the surface of the wound, granulations appear after less than 48 hours. These irritants, although different in nature, have the common characteristic of determining an inflammation of the tissues and the migration of leucocytes from the vessels to the surface of the wound. Possibly the white cells bring the substances which adult tissues require in order to cicatrize or regenerate. They would have the function of storing away the growth-promoting substances characteristic of embryonic tissues, and bringing them to the regions of the organism where they are needed.