Sticky cure saves Suffolk stallion

New Scientist vol 133 issue 1811 - 07 March 92, page 8

Childhood memories of a school science experiment have helped a vet to save a patient's professional career. The unfortunate victim of an accident at work was a Suffolk punch stallion, kicked by a mare he was supposed to service. A painful swelling developed on the stallion's penis.

The next day a local vet, Philip Ryder-Davies, was called in. 'Despite all manner of treatment, the oedematous swelling got worse and worse over the course of the next three days.' With disaster looming, a long-forgotten science lesson came to mind, he explains in the Veterinary Record (15 February).

Ryder-Davies remembered an experiment to demonstrate osmosis. The shell was removed from a raw egg, and the egg, with its inner membrane still intact, was put in a strong solution of sugar. As osmotic pressure forced the water from the egg, it gradually began to shrink.

Ryder-Davies suspended a canister of syrup from belts around the animal's abdomen and placed the damaged organ inside. Within 24 hours the swelling had disappeared, he reports, and the stallion has now completely recovered.

A specialist in the biology of membranes confirmed that the treatment was feasible. 'Putting a swollen organ in a highly concentrated solution of salt or sugar would certainly pull the water out. It raises the question of what happens to the penises of swimmers in the Dead Sea,' he said.


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