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Sea worm-based glue could help fix broken bones
BIO SmartBrief | 08/18/2009
U.S. scientists developed a biodegradable adhesive based on a natural glue from a sandcastle worm, called Phragmatopoma californica, that could aid surgeons in fixing broken bones. They hope the water-soluble adhesive could some day replace metal wires, screws and other tools in fastening broken bone fragments.
Sea worm provides sticky solution
(UKPA) – Aug 17, 2009
A team of US scientists have created a glue derived from an industrious marine worm that could help surgeons repair shattered bones.
Scientists hope the new bonding material will one day replace the metal wires, pins and screws used to hold bone fragments in place.
To create it, researchers copied a natural glue secreted by the sandcastle worm, which cements together sand grains and sea shell fragments to build a protective home.
The biodegradable adhesive is both super-strong and unaffected by water. Like the worm’s glue on which it is based, it sets in response to changes in acidity.
Currently nails, wires, pins and metal screws are used to support broken bones until they can bear weight.
Glue would have the advantage of avoiding metal hardware in the body and make it easier to fasten small bone fragments.
The inch-long sandcastle worm, Phragmatopoma californica, overcame several engineering challenges to evolve its underwater adhesive.
Dr Russell Stewart, from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, who led the research, said: “We recognised that the mechanism used by the sandcastle worm is really a perfect vehicle for producing an underwater adhesive. 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, whose findings were presented at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in Washington DC, has launched pilot studies looking at ways of delivering bioactive molecules within the glue. These could include antibiotics, pain relievers or compounds that accelerate healing.
“Biocompatibility is one of the major challenges of creating an adhesive like this. 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," Dr Stewart said.
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