Glue inspired by slug-slime aims to beat stitches at sealing wounds in soft tissues
Few things make a boo-boo feel better than a kiss and adhesive bandage, particularly if that bandage has cool cars or aliens on it. While countless kids have demanded their scrapes and cuts be covered with these magic curatives, scientists from Harvard University are working on something that will likely be well received as an improvement— medical slug glue. Based on the defensive mucus secreted by dusky slugs (Arion fuscus), this new polymer promises to be a considerable improvement over today’s medical glues, stitches and sutures, although until they make it with pictures of cartoon slugs Band-Aids might still prove useful.
Dusky slugs make their mucus to glue themselves to trees or rocks when they sense danger, hoping to make themselves immobile so a predator can’t swallow them. Thanks to these life-or-death stakes, their secretions are both flexible and durable, which is a big reason they caught the attention of researchers. Nobody is proposing we start harvesting goo from scared slugs though, as scientists have been formulating their own gel that used the mechanics of the slug slime as a starting point.
Sticking and stretching across the soft and squishy
The current gel now boasts a number of properties that make it attractive for a range of medical interventions. It doesn’t bond as quickly as current medical glues, which would allow doctors to adjust positioning more carefully while it’s being applied. It should also be less toxic to different cell types than glue, and there are plans to make sure the final product will dissolve over time on it’s own. The long, polymer chains that make up the bulk of the gel are extremely flexible, stretching as far as 14 times it’s initial length before failing in a lab test. It also bends with the soft tissues of the body and can even be secured on wet surfaces, such as skin or even hearts covered with blood. In fact, an injectable form of the adhesive even patched a hole inside a pig heart, hanging on even as the heart continued to beat.
All of this would be a huge improvement over today’s glues and stitches. Sewing skin closed leaves the body more exposed to pathogens, drying, scarring and more. Skin and other organs should all benefit, with the one tissue missing from the menu being bone. As great as this all sounds, it’s only been proven in experimental conditions thus far. We’ll have to wait for full FDA approval before we can take care of our wounds with a squirt of Slug-Aid.
Source: From goo to glue: slug slime inspires new wound-mending surgical adhesive by Nicola Davis, The Guardian