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Sandcastle Worm Glue

December 1, 2009

A small sea creature inspires a potentially useful medical glue.


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.

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.