Slug slime inspires a new type of surgical glue

new adhesive on a pig heart

OZY INSPIRATION Gelatinous slug slime inspired a new adhesive, which sticks strongly to wet surfaces such as this pig heart.

Jianya Li, Adam D. Celiz, David J. Mooney

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For a glue that holds up inside the body, turn to the humble slug, Arion subfuscus. A new super-sticky material mimics slug slime’s ability to stick on slick wet surfaces and could lead to more effective medical adhesives.

The material has two parts: a sticky layer that attaches to a surface, and a shock-absorbing layer that reduces strain. That makes the adhesive less likely to snap off.

Researchers tested the material as a surgical adhesive in a number of different scenarios: It stuck to pig skin and liver. It latched on to a beating pig’s heart, even when the surface was coated in blood. It sealed up a heart defect, preventing liquid from leaking even when the organ was inflated and deflated tens of thousands of times. And it was less toxic in the body than a commonly used commercialized tissue adhesive, researchers report July 28 in Science.

The researchers hope the material could someday be used in surgical procedures in place of invasive sutures and staples.

STICK AND STRETCH This adhesive prototype can stick to the slick surface of a pig heart — and remain attached even when stretched. Jianya Li, Adam D. Celiz, David J. Mooney

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