Sea worm inspires bone-setting glue

A trick used by sandcastle worms to build their homes gave medics an insight to create an adhesive which can be used to mend fractured bones.

A badly broken arm or leg can leave a patient with dozens of fragments, which must be assembled back like a puzzle and kept in place long enough to heal. The usual method is to use special screws and brackets, but they are difficult to use for smaller pieces. A new kind of glue capable of sticking them together would be a good solution, but there are several problems.

An adhesive for broken bones must be applicable to wet surfaces, not dissolve in the liquid environment and contain no toxic ingredients. A team of biomedical scientists at the University of Utah may have found just the right answer, MIT Technology Review website reports.

Rather then creating their own solution they’ve borrowed from the experience of a sea dwelling sandcastle worm. He builds his tube-shaped home by gluing together sand particles and shell bits and has similar challenges. The trick is that the adhesive that the worm secretes is pH-sensitive. While inside its body, where the pH is low, the glue is a fluid, but when exposed to seawater it solidifies.

Russell Stewart and his colleagues on the team have devised a synthetic polyacrylate version of the sandcastle worm glue. Their experiments on cell tissues and rats showed no signs of toxicity or immune system reactions to the adhesive. The researchers view their solution as a compliment to traditional orthopedic hardware or as a prime method of setting bones in face fractures, where using pins and screws can cause cosmetic damage.

Solutions that rely on the body pH are not unknown in medicine. Such techniques can be used for delivering steady flow of medicine to injured tissues or even for contraception.

Via : , 18 August 2009



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