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SLUG-BASED ADHESIVE DESTINED FOR MEDICAL USES

By Chris Williams on August 9, 2017.

Who would ever have guessed that those slimy, ugly garden slugs that we love to hate could benefit mankind? It’s all about the slime. Slugs produce the oozing, sticky slime covering over their bodies as a defense against predators. What animal wants a mouthful of mucus along with its slug meal?

If you pick up a fingerful of slug slime, it will quickly harden into a rubber cement type of material that stretches between your fingers and is hard to remove. Some researcher looked at that and said, “hmmmm.” As a result, scientists have developed a stretchy glue based on the slime exuded by slugs that is “probably on the order of 10 times better than what’s currently on the market,” said Phillip Messersmith, professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

SLUG SLIME GLUE MAY REPLACE STITCHES

The slug-inspired adhesive is a hydrogel that cements tightly, stretches, is held together by a sticky matrix, and sticks well to wet surfaces. This slug glue is not being marketed to replace your tube of Super Glue, although perhaps that could happen down the road. It’s destined for medical use and could be attached to a beating, bleeding heart. Because it is so flexible and stretchy, it could even be used to repair the hearts of growing children. In experiments with pig organs, the adhesive stuck to blood-soaked skin, cartilage, arteries, livers, and hearts.

The adhesive leaves less scar tissue than a clamp tool commonly used to close blood vessels, and medical researchers envision that this adhesive could be designed to dissolve, replacing stitches in wound repair. The newly developed adhesive can even be injected and may replace invasive surgery in some cases. The stretchy material can be left behind for extended periods as a prosthetic or to attach devices like pacemakers.

THE NOT-SO-USEFUL SIDE OF SLUGS

Slugs are mollusks related to snails. Believe it or not, slugs also have a shell that is hidden underneath a fleshy area on their backs but that doesn’t serve as a shelter. Any gardener knows that slugs are unwanted creatures. They eat large ragged holes in the leaves of plants and dine on young seedlings, mostly under cover of darkness. Hostas, strawberries, lettuce and cabbage are their favorites. During the day, they hide under leaves or mulch, or under stones, boards, flower pots – any cool, moist place.

Besides defense, slugs use their slime to ease travel and as a trail marker. The base of a slug’s body is a large “foot” that glides over a trail of secreted mucus that protects the traveling slug from rough surfaces. Slugs follow the shiny, dry slime trails left behind to find their way back to desirable plants.

[Source: The Washington Post, July 28, 2017]

Photo Credit : Brian Gratwicke | CC BY 2.0

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