Slugs secrete biological defensive mucus that has now inspired a new type of surgical glue, prepared by researchers. This “bio-glue” has three main properties, it can move with the body, it is incredibly strong and it can stick to wet surfaces. The results of this breakthrough are published this week in the journal Science.
The team of researchers at the Harvard University developed it and tried it successfully to attach edges of a hole on a pig’s heart. The main reason why this breakthrough is so significant is the fact that surgical glues that are traditionally used refuse to stick to a wet surface. This glue removes that problem. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, had an idea to look at the defensive mucus produced by the Dusky Arion or Arion subfuscus slug against predators. When attacked, the slug creates the mucus that makes it adherent to the surface but allows it to remain bendy at the same time. They used this mucus as prototype and engineered their material that had properties of the slug mucus.
Slug, Dusky Arion, Arion subfuscus. Image Credit: Doug Lemke / Shutterstock
Lead researcher Dr Jianyu Li explained that the results from material that was designed with the slug mucus as inspiration was positive. This new bio glue that they made had two properties - the actual adhesive or glue and a biochemical shock absorber that would take the strain. The body cells have a negative charge on them Li explained that helps them to stick to the positively charged glue. There is a covalent tough bond between the cells and the glue. This is made easy by the penetration of the glue into the tissue surfaces. The shock absorber is also a vital component as it takes the physical stress and strain of movement to allow the adhesive part to stay glued to the cells.
Further this newly created glue is nontoxic to animal and likely human tissues. It is tested and found to thrice as strong as any other traditional adhesive that is being used. According to Dr. Li, this is a solution to a big challenge and this would lead to great opportunities ahead. There may be other uses for this glue as well Li added because this glue is tough, strong as well as stretchy and compliant. Over the heart and lungs, that are dynamic parts of the body, this glue would be a total success. The glue is purported to be used as a patch over the skin or may be used as a liquid that can be injected deeply into the wounds. It could also be a vehicle and carry certain drugs to specific parts of the body say the research team.
Within three minutes the glue gets stuck to the site applied and within half an hour it gets as strong as cartilages within the body and is tough to remove. The Wyss Institute has applied for a patent and say that the glue is easy to make and cheap.
Surgical wound closure using adhesives
The most critical step in surgery is wound closure after surgery. It helps in restoration of the tissue structure and function and also allows it to heal. Statistics from MedMarket Diligence says that worldwide the cost of wound closure with either sutures or stitches or adhesives would be worth $14 billion by 2018.