Searching for Some Stick-To-It-Iveness

Man-made adhesives are a strong and varied bunch, and we've come up with all kinds of chemical combinations that are able to hold things together. But adhesives in the natural world—or more specifically, the ocean world—can achieve their purpose in ways that researchers are still trying to figure out. The New York Times recently looked at research into developing adhesives that work in wet conditions, the ultimate goal of which is to find applications in the human body.

“Man-made adhesives are very impressive,” said Russell Stewart, an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Utah. “You can glue airplanes together with them. But [the sandcastle worm] has been gluing things together underwater for several hundred million years, which we still can’t do.”

Researchers are testing adhesives on animal bones and other tissues to see if they can mimic some of the adhesion prowess shown by worms, mussels, barnacles and other marine creatures.