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Slugs’ Sticky Defense Could Offer Clues to New Medical Adhesive

Posted By ASC, Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2019

When insect predators try to grab a Dusky Airon slug for dinner, they are likely to find they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. The slug produces a flexible, tacky adhesive that blocks predators’ mouthparts.


Now, researchers are examining the substance in the hope of discovering a medical adhesive that could replace sutures or staples. The proteins in the slug adhesive may provide clues as to how to produce an adhesive that can flex as the body moves, yet still have enough adhesion to hold tissues in place. 


The Ithaca College research team has analyzed 11 slug adhesive proteins and has developed a method of producing them using recombinant DNA technology. Thus, if the proteins become ingredients in future medical adhesives, a means of producing them is already in place.


However, the proteins may not be useful in isolation, the researchers discovered that the double network structure in which the proteins bond to one another was behind the deformability and strength of the bonds they form. By modifying the protein network, the adhesive’s strength can be adjusted, allowing for deformation of bonds without loss of adhesion. 

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