Charles Martin, 334/844-3698


AUBURN -- You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, but you can repair a red-tailed hawk's elbow from a pig's small intestine.

The new procedure is the result of a veterinary product that uses the submucosal lining of a pig intestine to enhance the wound healing process, says Dr. Steven Swaim of Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"It looks like parchment paper and it has several uses, one of which is wound management," said Swaim, who recently used it to repair the injured skin on a hawk's elbow joint. "I didn't know exactly what results to expect, but it was well healed and looked like actual skin. It reportedly provides a matrix into which the body's own repair cells can grow."

The product, Vet BioSISt, incorporates the acronym SIS, which means swine small intestinal submucosa.

"We had used it successfully on two dogs and decided it could be beneficial on the injured hawk," Swaim said. "There was not enough skin left to pull over the damaged area, and a skin graft would have been an involved procedure. Sometimes we have a problem with the donor site healing on birds, so we sewed a patch of Vet BioSISt over the wound just like you would apply a skin graft."

The hawk, nicknamed Mac, was injured when it became entangled in a barbed-wire fence, said Joe Shelnutt, director of the college's Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center. He says the bird may be released soon depending upon its continued progress.

Vet BioSISt was developed by Cook Veterinary Products and introduced last year during a forum at the University of Missouri's veterinary school. It has also been used as a carotid artery graft and as a bladder patch on dogs.

"Swine small intestinal submucosa could have future impacts on human medicine, too," Swaim added. "Some preliminary work has been done evaluating it for use on wounds in people, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved it for use in other surgical repair procedures in people."

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