News / Health

Scientists Create Glue Inspired by Mussels

Sticky, self-healing properties could have far-reaching medical and industrial applications

Mussels, like these on Onetangi Beach in New Zealand, have inspired an international team of scientists to design an artificial, self-healing gel that lends itself to underwater applications.
Mussels, like these on Onetangi Beach in New Zealand, have inspired an international team of scientists to design an artificial, self-healing gel that lends itself to underwater applications.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

Have you ever wondered how those hard-shelled mollusks known as mussels anchor themselves to rocks on lake and river bottoms? How they stick to sea walls, or resist pounding waves?

Scientists at the University of Chicago have done more than come up with some answers. They’ve actually created a synthetic gel that mimics the mussel’s sticky, self-healing properties. Their invention could have far-reaching medical and industrial applications.

Niels Holten-Anderson - a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Chicago - says mussels do two things really well. They excrete a sticky adhesive and they can use that natural glue to repair the anchoring bond. 

University of Chicago Chemistry professor Ka Yee Lee, postdoctoral scholar Niels Holten-Andersen and team have invented a new synthetic mussel-inspired material that exhibits both strength and reversibility.
University of Chicago Chemistry professor Ka Yee Lee, postdoctoral scholar Niels Holten-Andersen and team have invented a new synthetic mussel-inspired material that exhibits both strength and reversibility.

"And the important thing to remember is that there are no cells. There is no live or living activity taking place inside these materials. The material is basically a dead material, just like our hair," says Holten-Anderson. "So this capacity to re-heal itself is completely automatic, and it’s not relying on any energy input from living cells."

Holten-Anderson, his University of Chicago colleagues and a team of international scientists worked on how to turn what mussels create naturally into a synthetic material. They zeroed in on the chemistry of what the mollusks secrete and discovered metal mixed inside their thin, hold-fast fibers. Holten-Anderson says iron is a key ingredient that makes the adhesive strong and flexible.

"The unique thing is that you can pull them apart and if you leave them be, they can find their partners again and re-heal, and that’s where the original strength of the healing comes from."

Mussels generate their own self-healing sticky material, which allows them to attach to rocks and to repair tiny tears caused by breaking waves and sand abrasion, but the elastic gel attached to this one was created in the laboratory.
Mussels generate their own self-healing sticky material, which allows them to attach to rocks and to repair tiny tears caused by breaking waves and sand abrasion, but the elastic gel attached to this one was created in the laboratory.

Holten-Anderson and colleagues set out to replicate that in the laboratory using a synthetic polymer or a simplified version of a string of mussel protein molecules. They succeeded when they pre-mixed the polymer with metal salts at low pH.  

"You instantly get an initiation of these self-healing gel-like, sticky materials as soon as you do this basically step-wise process of mixing things," he says, "and then increase the pH potentially mimicking what happens in the natural case anyway."

Iron is the metal available to mussels in the environment. Holten-Anderson says scientists can expand that pallet and experiment with other metals.

"We’ve shown so far that a metal such as titanium, for example, which is interesting from the bio-medical side of things with implants materials and so forth, that we can actually use titanium atoms too to cross in these materials and those materials seem to have even stronger, even higher strength than the iron based materials."

Holten-Anderson expects the nature-inspired material will have practical medical and industrial uses. A patent is pending on how to make the gel, which is described online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid