Bonding with Sea Worms

August 19, 2009

1 Min Read
Bonding with Sea Worms

Scientists have created a glue derived from a marine worm that could help surgeons repair shattered bones. The team of U.S. researchers hopes that the adhesive will eventually replace the metal wires, pins, and screws used to hold bone fragments in place. While avoiding metal hardware in the body, glue would also make it easier to fasten small bone fragments.To create the material, the scientists copied a natural glue secreted by the sandcastle worm, or Phragmatopoma californica, an organism that uses the glue to bond sand grains and seashell fragments together to build a protective dwelling. Strong and impervious to water, the biodegradable adhesive sets in response to changes in acidity, just like the natural glue on which it is based."We recognized that the mechanism used by the sandcastle worm is really a perfect vehicle for producing an underwater adhesive," remarks team leader Russell Stewart from the University of Utah (Salt Lake City). "This glue, just like the worm's glue, is a fluid material that, although it doesn't mix with water, is water soluble."The team has launched pilot studies to determine how to deliver bioactive molecules within the glue, including antibiotics, pain relievers, and compounds for accelerating healing."Biocompatibility is one of the major challenges of creating an adhesive like this," Stewart says. "Anytime you put something synthetic into the body, there's a chance the body will respond to it and damage the surrounding tissue. That's something we will monitor, but we've seen no indication right now that it will be a problem."

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