In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences investigators found that a sticky compound found in sunless tanners may help with wound healing after surgery.
Often when someone has surgery that requires taking out a sizable amount of tissue, like with removal of a breast mass or a large sebaceous cyst, a large hole remains after the skin is sutured. This hole can often fill up with fluid that prevents wound healing so surgeons often have to leave a drain in the wound which is uncomfortable and often inconvenient.
The investigators found that a sticky gel containing polyethylene glycol and a polycarbonate of dihydroxyacetone (MPEG-pDHA) can be used to "glue" the hole shut preventing the build-up of fluid and the need for a drain.
Now this is where the story gets interesting. This sticky gel is the same one that's used in sunless tanners to get the tanner to stick to the skin without getting rubbed or washed off. If you've ever used sunless tanner you know that it doesn't last long, maybe a week at the most. That's because DHA is a substance that's naturally made in the body so this gel is biodegradable and water-soluble. In a wound it would help start the healing process and then disappear just as the tissue is "knitting" together.
The current "Band-aid gels" are made from animal products and they take a long time to break down, raising the risk of infection.
This new gel hasn't been tested in humans yet but in the next couple of years we may see fewer and fewer drains used after surgery.