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Sticky Frog Holds Bioadhesive Potential

Originally Published MDDI January 2005


Heather Thompson

In another example of nature's superior design, scientists at the University of Adelaide (Adelaide, South Australia) have discovered an adhesive secreted from a rare type of burrowing frog found in Australia.

The frog, which is of the Notaden genus, lives underground for nine months of the year and emerges during the torrential rain season. To protect itself from insect attacks during this vulnerable time, the frog secretes a glue that binds the jaws of biting insects and adheres the insect to the frog's skin.

Every two weeks the frog sheds its skin, as all frog species do. The frog then eats the skin for nourishment, along with any insects stuck to it.

What is intriguing to scientists about the frog's secretion is that it hardens in seconds, even in moist conditions, and still remains flexible. Furthermore, the adhesive appears to be nontoxic, according to Michael Tyler, who discovered the glue.

Tyler is a head researcher at Adelaide. He and orthopedic surgeon George Murell of the University of New South Wales conducted the first experiments using the frog glue to patch the meniscal knee cartilage in sheep. The frog glue held the cut fragments of joints and allowed the body's natural collagen to fill in weak points.

"There is a great need for something strong enough to withstand the forces in the knee to hold the cartilage together until it repairs," says biomaterials expert Rolfe Howlett. Many biological types of glue on the market are too weak to fix body parts that are under large amounts of stress, such as knee cartilage. The frog glue's strength and flexibility make it a promising alternative, says Tyler.

Tyler has spent several years studying the amphibious secretions. He and his team previously found a way to remove the frog skin without harming the animal. Introducing a mild electric shock to the skin induces the frog to create more secretion and allows for easier removal.

Further experiments have shown that the adhesive will stick to plastics, wood, glass, and metal. And it retains its bonds even in moist conditions. Once set, the glue has a porous structure that could allow healing gases, nutrients, and possibly even cells to pass through the structure.

The Adelaide group is currently working on creating a synthetic version of the glue based on unusual proteins found in the secretion. "I cannot put an estimate on a time when a commercial product will be available," says Tyler, "but we have made excellent progress and numerous researchers are contributing."

"We are actively seeking a commercial partner, and our own funding is very limited," he adds.

Copyright ©2005 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

The Business of Innovation

Originally Published MX January/February 2005


By integrating system theory into their products, medtech companies can create a defensible portfolio of innovative medical devices.

Gail D. Baura

Innovation to address clinical needs is at the heart of medical device breakthroughs. When Wilson Greatbatch serendipitously discovered an electronic circuit that pulsed in a manner similar to a heartbeat, he recognized that circuit as the potential foundation of what would become the world's first implantable pacemaker. When Paul Lauterbur, corecipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Medicine, adjusted the intensity of the magnetic field during a course of imaging studies, he discovered the capabilities of the two-dimensional imaging technique later named magnetic resonance imaging. By simplifying complex problems, innovation breakthroughs lead to competitive advantages, new markets, and higher market share for medtech companies.

Figure 1. The signal extraction technology employed in pulse oximeters by Masimo Corp. (Irvine, CA) is based on adaptive filtering, a system theory technique.
(click to enlarge)
Photo courtesy MASIMO CORP.

The Home-Healthcare Marketplace

Originally Published MX January/February 2005


The rapidly growing home-healthcare segment represents win-win potential for both consumers and manufacturers.

Alpesh Gandhi

One of the fastest growing—and most opportunity filled—sectors of the healthcare marketplace is that devoted to home healthcare. As a product-generating sector of the medical device industry, the key segments of the home-healthcare market are those for respiratory devices, infusion-therapy devices, and durable medical equipment (DME). But the range of devices now being developed for home use is extremely diverse, including such varied products as infusion pumps and syringes, rehabilitation equipment and bedside monitors, beds and wheelchairs.

Figure 1. Revenue forecast for the home-healthcare segment of the U.S. medical device market, 2002–2008. Source: Frost & Sullivan.
(click to enlarge)

Building a New Model for Spine Care

Originally Published MX January/February 2005


When the dust settles, technologies and procedures for treating spine conditions will look very different.

Marc R. Viscogliosi

Throughout the world, musculoskeletal impairments and conditions are the most frequent causes of disability. Encompassing more than 150 diseases and syndromes, musculoskeletal conditions affect every age and socioeconomic group, and will affect every human being who lives a normal lifespan.

The musculoskeletal business sector as a whole—including all treatment, services, devices, pharmaceuticals, and biologics used to treat the six types of musculoskeletal tissues in the body—represents a market of approximately $350 billion, or roughly 10% of the global healthcare industry.

Figure 1. Composition of the 2004 global market for medical devices in the musculoskeletal sector, by type. Total revenues for 2004 are estimated at $22.4 billion. Source: Viscogliosi Bros. LLC (New York City).
(click to enlarge)