Slug Slime Inspires Glue That Can Plug Holes In The Heart

Posted: Jul 29 2017, 10:37am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Slug Slime Inspires Glue that can Plug Holes in the Heart
Credit: Dave Mooney

The super-strong glue could one day replace stitches in healing wound

Drawing inspiration from sticky slug slime, researchers have developed a brand new type of surgical glue. The glue is extremely flexible and super strong. Unlike most other glues, the new one can easily stick to wet surfaces such as liver and heart and could one day be used for medical purposes such as to seal wounds or to plug broken heart.

“Nature has frequently already found elegant solutions to common problems; it's a matter of knowing where to look and recognizing a good idea when you see one," said Donald Ingber, director of e Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering "We are excited to see how this technology, inspired by a humble slug, might develop into a new technology for surgical repair and wound healing."

The glue work on the same principle as the slime from Arion subfuscus, a large species of slug found in North America and Europe. The slug ejects a special kind of sticky slime when threatened. It glues slug in place and makes it difficult for a predator to separate it from the surface. The slime of slug is made up of long, straight chains of molecules called polymers and these polymers are attached to each other through a phenomenon called cross-linking.

What makes the slime interesting is that it is composed of a tough matrix with two types of cross-like bonds. Some are covalent bonds, which hold molecules together by sharing electrons. Others are ionic bonds where one molecule hands over its electrons to another, making the adhesive extremely strong.

Based on this idea, researchers created their own mixture in water-based material called a hydrogel.

“The key feature of our material is the combination of a very strong adhesive force and the ability to transfer and dissipate stress, which have historically not been integrated into a single adhesive.” Co-researcher Dave Mooney from Wyss Institute said.

Researchers tested their adhesive on a variety of tissues including skin, cartilage, heart, artery and liver and found that it does a far better job than regular adhesives. The adhesive maintained its stability and bonding when implanted into rats or when used to seal a hole in a pig heart. Moreover, it caused no damage to the tissues in surrounding areas.

“This research is really exciting [but] the detail of the biocompatibility will need to go beyond what is presented in the paper to guide the long-term clinical efficacy, safety, and therefore the real medical applications." Professor John Hunt from Nottingham Trent University told the BBC.

"This one has the potential to improve healthcare and save lives.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir. With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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