Thursday, August 27, 2009
Scientists at the University of Utah have uncovered a way to produce a synthetic adhesive based on a natural glue created by the sandcastle worm. This ocean worm builds its home by sticking pieces of sand and shells together, and the result is strong enough to withstand ocean tides. Researchers think this glue could have applications for bone repair in trauma cases, where fast setting time, ease of use and low risk of infection can benefit both the patient and the surgeon.
Russell Stewart, Ph.D., who led the Utah team, said his goal was to develop a water-based adhesive that remained insoluble in wet environments and was able to bond to wet objects. Curing time was another key issue for Stewart. The the team learned that pH changes cause the glue to set, a response that was copied for the synthetic version. The final result is "at least as strong as Super Glue" and is twice as strong as the sandcastle adhesive. So far, it has passed toxicity studies in cell cultures. In addition to its adhesive applications, Stewart is exploring how the glue could also be used to deliver antibiotics or materials that could aid in healing, like BMPs or other small molecules.
Surgical adhesives offer a number of benefits over fixation devices, among them more effective wound closure, less risk of leakage and infection and ease of handling and application. Similar to the sandcastle glue, many adhesives are derived from natural sources. For example, fibrin sealants are blood-derived, CryoLife's BioGlue is bovine-derived and some hemostatic products come from snake venom.