Burn Therapy: Out of the Box: A Layer of Skin

In their continuing search for a temporary substitute for the ruined skin of burn victims, surgeons have tried sterile gauze and various kinds of fetal and animal tissue. All have been unsatisfactory. Now an everyday packaging plastic promises to provide just what the doctors want. The material is polyvinyl plastic—close kin to the stuff that goes into synthetic sponges, commercial wrappings and floor tiles.

Prepared for medical use under the name Ivalon, an experimental version of the familiar plastic has proved every bit as effective as homografts—shortlived grafts of skin taken from...

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