Show Details

Parasite-Inspired Adhesives

May 2, 2013

A marine parasite has inspired new surgical adhesives.



A medically useful parasite. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An aquatic parasite may help improve skin grafts and other surgeries. Bioengineer Jeff Karp of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is developing a new medical adhesive, modeled after the spiny-headed worm.

JEFFREY KARP (Brigham and Women’s Hospital):

It has this needle-like structure, called a proboscis. Which it pushes into the intestine of fish. And then only the tip part swells.

That locks the worm into place so it can feed. Karp’s adhesive uses an array of microneedles, each as thin as two or three human hairs, which swell in a similar way to stick to tissue. The adhesive could greatly improve skin grafts, which are currently attached with bulky staples and often don’t stay flush with the body. It could also be used in other wound dressings, and Karp says degradable versions could even be used as internal bandages. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

A medical adhesive inspired by a worm. (Karp Lab/Brigham and Women's Hospital)