Mussel Muscle

File:Blue mussel Mytilus edulis.jpg

(c) Andreas Trepte

So I am a little bit slow on this one, but old news can still be good news!

A couple of weeks back at the AAAS conference in Boston, Dr Phillip Messersmithannounced a scientific breakthrough.  He and his colleagues have developed a glue which could have a huge range of medical applications. Now why am I telling you this? This is supposed to be a marine blog. Well, the glue is based on a compound that marine mussels produce!

If you have ever been to the beach and walked through the rock pools, chances are you will have seen some mussels. If you’re anything like me, you might have tried to pull them off the rocks to get a better look. Now this is not necessarily an easy task, they hold on tight! Their strong grip helps them to stay in place despite the pounding waves.

So, how do they do this? The mussel uses string-like structures called ‘byssal threads’ to attach to the rocks.  These threads are covered in a sticky goo which can glue to the rocks despite the presence of water.  It is components of this goo, that have been used to make a glue suitable for medical uses.

Current research has involved using the glue to seal up holes in the fetal membrane of rabbits. This improves their chance of survival by 20%!  Messersmith and colleagues hope that this glue will be able to help repair the birth defect spina bifida.


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