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Scientists use synthetic skin to test box jelly sting remedies

Seriously, stop peeing on jellyfish stings you heathens.
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Box Jellyfish kill more people worldwide each year than sharks. That's why a team of researchers from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa are working to develop an effective first aid treatment for the jelly's deadly toxins -- and they're trying just about everything. From the popular myth of urinating on stings to vinegar/hot water immersions and commercial cures like StingNoMore, no remedy out of bounds. But how do you test these treatments without trying them on humans? You make your own synthetic skin, obviously.

"What we needed were innovative models which would allow us to test how different options might affect the severity of a sting without putting anyone at risk," Angel Yanagihara, lead author of the paper, said in a statement. "So we designed a set of experiments using live, stinging tentacles and live human red blood cells which allowed us to pit first-aid measures against one another." The team wound up suspending red blood cells in an agarose gel and covered them with lanolin-rubbed sterile porcine intestine for their experiment.

In the end, the team found that immersing stings in a vinegar/hot water solution was the most effective homebrew solution. "People think ice will help because jelly stings burn and ice is cold," said Christie Wilcox, a postdoctoral fellow at JABSOM who assisted with the study. "But research to date has shown that all marine venoms are highly heat sensitive. Dozens of studies, including our recent work, have shown that hot water immersion leads to better outcomes than ice." Urinating on stings reportedly accomplished nothing aside from getting the wound all pissy.

[Image Credit: Getty]

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