Worms seem like unlikely candidates to inspire anything, let alone new medical tools. However, it seems the humble sandcastle worm is in danger of becoming a regular feature here at Medgadget. This is because the sandcastle worm possesses a unique ability to produce a super-glue which it uses to bind grains of sand and shell fragments into a protective shell as shown in this video:
This week a team of material scientists from the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Utah are reporting on their sandworm-inspired adhesive solutions for the treatment of fetal membrane ruptures which can lead to premature births. Fetal membrane ruptures can occur when surgeons operate on a fetus or when checking for anatomical abnormalities using a fetal endoscope, which can puncture the fetal membrane.
In order to tackle this problem the team created synthetic polymers to mimic the adhesive proteins produced by sandworms. The synthetic polymer doesn’t mix with water and as a result doesn’t swell. It is also relatively inexpensive and significantly stronger than existing fibrin based sealants which are ineffective for sealing fetal membranes.
According to the project leader Prof. Russell J. Stewart, sealing fetal ruptures presents some very tricky design challenges for an adhesive.
“There are currently no effective treatments for preventing fetal membrane rupture caused by in utero surgery. Using glue in the fluid-filled uterus is challenging. Our water-borne, non-swelling, non-toxic adhesives that won’t dissolve in water have ideal properties for this challenging environment. The evidence so far suggests we likely will be able to solve this problem.”
The team believes there may be a multitude of non-medical applications for the technology in creating novel underwater paints and glues. Prof. Stewart will be reporting on results from early animal studies of their synthetic polymer at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) this week in San Francisco.
American Chemical Society: Solving a sticky problem with fetal surgery using a glue inspired by the sandcastle worm…