Researchers develop new surgical adhesive inspired by slug secretions

Researchers develop new surgical adhesive inspired by slug secretions

Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, have developed a super-strong tough adhesive that is biocompatible and binds to tissues with a strength comparable to the body's own resilient cartilage, even when wet.

Co-first author Jianyu Li settled with the idea of mimicking slug slime after poring over materials covering the common Dusky Arion's (Arion subfuscus) defense mechanism in which the slug produces a lot of mucus that glues it in place when threatened by a predator.

For some time now, scientists have been searching for a better adhesive for surgery and wound healing.

That's a very challenging problem in the material and also in the biomedical world.

"The defensive mucus turns out to be very sticky and also very strong and highly stretchable", says Li.

A sticky flexible substance capable of effectively sealing wounds, that was inspired by a type of mucus secreted by slugs, has been developed by a group of worldwide scientists including one from Ireland.

"We are excited how this technology, inspired by a humble slug, might develop into a technology for surgical fix and healing".

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He and his colleagues used the slug slime as a starting point to engineer a new adhesive material that combines ingredients like those in the slug mucus with a flexible gel.

The fact that the adhesive can be applied to wet surfaces is a plus in itself since current surgical adhesives don't really work well when used on bleeding wounds. The polymers provide the sticking power, Li explained, while the dissipative-matrix layer acts like a shock absorber: It can stretch and deform without rupturing. "We can make these adhesives out of biodegradable materials, so they decompose once they've served their objective". The researchers say that it can be used as a patch of as an injectable liquid in deep wounds inside the body.

In animal experiments, the patches successfully stuck to bloody pig skin and to bloody, beating pig heart. It was also able to patch holes in rat livers, and remained sticky for two weeks.

The new adhesive's current version is focused on improving its binding ability, which proved very successful after several tests, but the researchers say it could be made with biodegradable materials later on so it would dissolve after use, just like now available surgical glue. It also proved non-toxic to human cells.

This should be as sticky ass super glue, and as stretchy as a rubber band.

At the same time, the bio-glue can be administered in various ways. In the meantime, Li and colleagues are working on engineering a biodegradable version that might disintegrate once an organ has healed.

However, there might still be some issues, as it would take years of testing before such a material could come to be used and available for humans. "And the second reason is, I'm not a biologist".

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