The Loh Down On Science

Worm Glue

Nature's own superglue, courtesy of the sandcastle worm.

Something sticky this way comes.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science and news on nature's own superglue.

Just off the California coast, the sandcastle worm toils patiently, building its little tube-shaped home. All day long, it gathers individual grains of sand and sticks them together – one by one – with a glue it secretes.

But what a glue! It works underwater and hardens in thirty seconds.

Bioengineer Russell Stewart at the University of Utah analyzed the proteins that make up the glue. Now he's concocted a synthetic version.

Its primary purpose? Mending broken bones.

Kneecaps and facial bones can shatter into fragments too tiny for pins and screws. Most adhesives work poorly on smooth, wet surfaces – like bone. And superglue, commonly used to repair skin, is too toxic for internal use.

Stewart's synthetic worm glue has nearly 40 percent the strength of superglue. Drugs, growth factors, and even living cells can be mixed directly into it.

Sandcastle worm glue. Mermaids like it too! Just make sure you stick those two... sea shells over the chest area.


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