May 31, 2010 at 3:02 PM ETJust when you thought sunless tanning spray was good only for hiding pale skin, flabby flesh and varicose veins, scientists have come up with a new use for a compound in the body bronzer. Turns out the sugar-based molecules that turn you brown and stick to your skin can be combined with a chemical goo to create a sticky gel bandage to help medical wounds heal better. Plastic surgeons at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York have come up with what’s been described as an “internal Band-Aid” that can seal the gaps and holes that surgery leaves behind. For instance, procedures to remove cancerous tissue or surgeries to reconstruct body parts often result in hollow spaces that fill with fluid, called seromas, that must be drained, either manually or with implanted shunts. By all accounts, it’s an unpleasant undertaking with the potential for pain and infection. Using the new gel, however, doctors could simply fill the hole and let it heal, said Dr. Jason Spector, a plastic surgeon and co-author of a new study about the product published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The new substance would act to glue together the hole left behind to prevent seroma build-up,” he explained in a statement. The gel, composed of polyethylene glycol and a polycarbonate of dihydroxyacetone – the stuff that turns you brown – is durable enough to stick to tissue, but also biodegradable and water soluble, so it won’t hang around forever. The scientists have studied the gel in rats, where it reduced the chance of seromas and fluid build-up. Now they’d like to try it in bigger critters, and, finally, on clinical trials in humans. That’s good news for surgery patients. Next, maybe the scientists can do something about the orange palms and streaky ankles that regular tanning spray leaves behind.