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Sandcastle Worm Glue

December 1, 2009

A small sea creature inspires a potentially useful medical glue.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Copying shellfish adhesives. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An industrious little sea creature called the sandcastle worm builds reef-like homes out of sand and grit. To do that, it makes its own super-strong, water-resistant glue. Now, University of Utah bio-engineer Russell Stewart and his colleagues are making a synthetic version of the glue to fix shattered bone.

RUSSELL STEWART (University of Utah):
The sandcastle worm literally glues skeletons together under the water – if you consider seashells an exoskeleton. And that’s pretty much the challenge that a surgeon would have, if you wanted to use glue to repair bone.

HIRSHON:
Stewart says the glue could be more precise and less invasive than conventional screws and pins. His team’s version is strong enough to hang a 40-pound weight from one square centimeter’s worth of adhesive. The immediate task is to make sure it’s compatible with the human body. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.