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June 2000

Father's Day celebrations kept many regulars from attending our June meeting, but a handful of stalwarts and a few first-timers (including one who first learned about foreskin restoration the night before!) showed up at the usual place for a rewarding afternoon of information and discussion.

Jim brought word of refinements to the Tug Ahoy. In addition to adding vent holes to the inner cone, he has a new process for applying the coating which should make the plastic surface much more durable. (If anyone has a Tug Ahoy whose lamination on the inner cone is peeling, Jim has offered to replace it with a new cone.)

One man reported experiencing a strong odor after wearing the cone for an extended period of time, much stronger than the natural odors some restoring men discover as they achieve coverage. Others have been able to resolve this problem quickly by washing and/or sterilizing their cones. This man had no odor problems when using t-tape, and it is suspected that some bacterial activity is taking place between the cone and his skin. This appears to be the only case to date of a strong odor which could not easily be prevented from recurring.

Our coordinator, Dahl, was back with us after an extended vacation. For the benefit of all he recapped his investigation and experiments with cyclic tension and non-elastic straps:

DAHL: I've gotten quite a few people inquiring about it. My thinking on this comes from a couple of things that I read. One concerned skin expansion with a saline bladder. For purposes of skin expansion in the medical world, a bladder is slipped underneath the skin and inflated with saline solution. The skin is stretched to the point that it can't stretch any further, and it's held in that position.

This is a little different from what we're doing, because we're taking an elastic strap and applying constant tension, constantly pulling the skin. We're not just pulling it to a certain point and holding it.

A lot of us have hit plateaus where we've made a lot of progress and then we get to a point where nothing else happens. I thought maybe part of this plateauing is not that we have stretched all there is to stretch, but that the skin has reached a point of resistance; it's just not going to take any more tugging. I thought that if there was a way of emulating more closely the bladder method, where rather than constant tugging the skin you could pull the skin to a certain point and then just hold it there, it might help us make more progress.

What I did was to take a standard leg strap and put in a piece of cotton belting that can be adjusted. I put a little piece of elastic at the end so that it can "give" a little bit. I find that when I put it on, I stretch the penis to the point that there is tension on the skin, but if I really pull hard I can pull it a little bit further. I set it going down the leg so there is constantly tension, but I can pull a little bit more on it. What happens also is that as I walk, the tension tends to change a little bit; it gives a little bit of a tug and then releases.

There was a second report that said that cyclical tugging seemed to be preferable to constant tension. Whether it works or not, I can't really tell you. I tried it for about three or four weeks and I saw about half an inch of increase in that time. I then took about three or four weeks off while on vacation, so I've sort of gone back to ground zero. I'm starting again.

Jim, our resident physician and inventor, filled us in on the science behind Dahl's approach.

JIM: In the studies Dahl mentioned, they were cycling the tension ten times every minute. What they found was that when they stretch the skin like that, the cells produced a number of chemicals that are associated with replication and cell division. But if they stretched once and left it, there was only one little pulse of these chemicals and then nothing. So the point was that, at least in terms of tissue culture, you need to stretch and relax.

One of the factors involved is that if you stretch skin too much, there is no longer blood flow. You can't have sustained tension for a long period... it would be counter- productive. Anytime you put too much sustained stretch on tissue, it's not going to work. But I think that we need at least intermittent, quite high tension in order to tell the skin, "Go ahead and stretch." But exactly what the frequencies are, how high the tension should be...I don't think anyone really knows.

Following up on a report last month regarding the landmark study comparing the differences in penile sensitivity between intact and circumcised men, Gary told us that we will be invited to participate at some point. If you're interested in participating in this important study, watch this space in the coming months for further details.

With June nearly over, it's not too soon to start thinking about attending our next meeting on Sunday, July 16th. Whether you're circumcised, restoring or intact, come join us for an afternoon of news, information and support!