Photo credit: Rahim Packir Saibo via Flickr/Creative Commons
Broken bone? Soon, you'll be able to have the break superglued back together, all thanks to sandcastle worms and biomimicry. Researchers at the University of Utah have been inspired by the sea worms, who secrete their own natural glue that they use to build underwater houses; the researchers have been able to copy and synthesize the glue, and hope it can someday replace pins, screws and such in mending broken bones.The team of bioengineers is looking in to the possibility of using the glue to repair injuries like knees and other joints, shattered facial bones, with a specific focus on (literally) gluing small pieces back together again -- if only Humpty Dumpty had been so lucky.
Still in the lab-testing phase -- on cow bones from the grocery store -- the superglue performed 37 percent as well as commercial glue. If all goes well, the researchers expect to test on animals within a few years, and then on humans within a decade. The team is shooting to make more-powerful versions that are biodegradable and biocompatible with humans.
"Ultimately, we intend to make it so it is replaced by natural bone over time," said Russell Stewart, associate professor of bioengineering and senior author of the synthetic glue study, which will be published in the journal Macromolecular Biosciences. "We don't want to have the glue permanently in the fracture."
And, as an added bonus, the glue is made and works in wet conditions, and sets quickly -- ideal for this bone-setting application. Plus, the glue can also carry drugs, funneling in painkillers, antibiotics, stem cells and other medicine. Mother Nature -- what'll she think of next?
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