A while ago, we spoke to John Wilker, a chemistry professor at Purdue University who’s developing glues modeled after the sticky secretions of oysters and mussels. His adhesives are gluing together broken bones, offering a less toxic alternative to formaldehyde, and even attracting interest from fake eyelash makers.
In a similar vein, two Boston researchers are researching a surgical glue inspired by slugs and worms. As described in the Scientist, the adhesive is designed to close up heart defects and severed blood vessels, and is less invasive than sutures and staples, which aren’t very flexible and can damage tissue.
The great advantage of both projects is that the glues set wet inside the body, and aren’t affected by the presence of water or blood. They’re also completely harmless to humans, unlike oil-based glues that release volatile organic compounds. The glue from Boston fixes on the skin when exposed to strong ultraviolet light, making it easy to manipulate.
The project is led by Pedro del Nido, a Boston Children’s Hospital cardiac surgeon, and Jeff Karp, a bioengineer at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Together, they’ve successfully used the glue to seal up an artery in a pig. Del Niro told the Scientist: “Something like this could revolutionize the way surgery is done, especially on the delicate tissue of newborns and children.”