Washington, Mar 13 (ANI): Inspired by the larvae of caddisflies that tape things together underwater, scientists are hoping to make synthetic glue that can be used to tape wet tissues together in operating rooms.
The researchers-Russell Stewart and Ching Shuen Wang of the University of Utah-previously worked with another underwater creature-a marine organism called a sandcastle worm-that creates dots of glue to paste together the tube of sand grains it calls home.
That study showed that its glue is made up of highly charged proteins that attract each other so strongly they exclude water, preventing the glue from dissolving underwater.
The proteins also contain phosphate groups, which, according to researchers are known to be pretty good adhesion promoters.
They are used in dentistry to make things like crowns stick. They are also added to paint to help it stick better to walls.
Stewart decided to investigate caddisflies after Christy Geraci of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. showed him some caddisfly specimens.
"They use silk in such amazingly diverse ways, if you look at the array of cases that the make," Discovery News quoted Geraci as saying.
Stewart saw the tiny ribbons of the caddisflies' adhesive under the microscope, crisscrossing the insides of their casings and was intrigued by them.
Back in Utah, he put on his waders and went looking in the river. He brought specimens back to the lab where he grew them in a tank, giving them clean glass beads with which to make their casings.
This way he could collect pure samples of the larvae's adhesive, which he analysed to determine what it was made of.
"We found pretty early on that there was phosphorous in the fibers, which kind of surprised us," Stewart said.
The structure was otherwise similar to moth and butterfly silk, but the phosphorous component was new.
Although the phosphate differentiates the caddisfly larvae silk from moth and butterfly silk, it is a key aspect of what makes sandcastle glue stick underwater.
"It's kind of like they both found the same solution to the same problem," said Stewart.
So far, Stewart has had success making synthetic sandcastle glue that he hopes could be used to piece together tiny shards of bones.
Now, he is hoping to make a synthetic material with similar properties to the caddisfly tape that could be used for applications like sticking wet tissues together during or after an operation while the tissues healed. (ANI)