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Mussel Glue

February 16, 2010

A glue inspired by mussels may help prevent premature labor or miscarriages.


Mussel power for fetal distress. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

During pregnancy, a rip in the fetal membrane can lead to preterm labor or miscarriage. Northwestern University biomedical engineer Phillip Messersmith and his colleagues are hoping to fix those torn membranes with a new glue. It’s inspired by mussels – the shellfish, that is.

PHILLIP MESSERSMITH (Northwestern University):
Mussels provide an interesting model system for medical sealants, because they have evolved very elegant solutions to adhesion in wet environments, which normally is very difficult to accomplish.

His team made a synthetic variation of the mussel glue, which makes the bivalves stick to rocks, boats, and other underwater surfaces. The glue has shown promise in the lab, and animal studies are coming soon. Eventually, he’ll need to find a delivery system that glues only the fetal membrane, but not the fetus itself. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.