A compound found in sunless tanning spray may help to heal wounds following surgery, according to research by biomedical engineers at Cornell University.

Researchers created a new sticky gel composed of polyethylene glycol and a polycarbonate of dihydroxyacetone (MPEG-pDHA) that may help to seal wounds created by surgery. For instance, procedures to remove cancerous breast tissue often leave a hollow space that fills with seroma fluid that must then be drained by a temporary implanted drain. The gel could potentially be used in various reconstructive surgeries to prevent seroma formation.

DHA is a compound that sticks to compounds in biological tissues, called amines. Its sticky properties are what allow sunless tanner to adhere to the skin without being wiped off. It is also biodegradable and water-soluble, meaning that the compound does not stay tacked onto the body's tissues forever. Current "bio-glues" are made from animal products and take a long time to degrade in the body - both of which are factors that raise the risk of infection.

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