Lifewatch: Worm Glue

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Glue made by an amazing sea creature to build its own home, may repair shattered human bones.

The University of Utah bioengineers are developing a synthetic copy pulled from the best of the worm's recipe to do just that and even more.

The Sandcastle Worm lives in a protective tubular structure that it builds itself by reaching out with tentacles to grab bits and pieces of surrounding material.

The worm sweeps the grains inward, applies a homemade glue, and then adds it to his house.

"This glue is unique because it's carried in water basically, so it's a water solution of molecules which work underwater to bond together wet substrates," said Dr. Russell Stewart.

Steward said the recipe that vies the glue remarkable properties in water could also bond together shattered human bones.

Modified in the lab, the properties of the adhesive can be synthesized and applied via syringe to injured bones without invasive surgery.

The non-toxic glue would hold things together while the body makes a permanent repair, then it would degrade naturally.

"We hope eventually to produce a material that would not only fix the fracture, but also deliver medicine basically to help with the natural healing process," said Dr. Stewart.

The first generation of a compound now undergoing testing at the University of Utah shows the team from bioengineering and orthopedics has successfully copied some of the worm's most important feature.