Tick “cement” as a potential bioadhesive for human tissue
As part of this project, Nürnberger is working with Martina Marchetti-Deschmann from Vienna University of Technology to study the composition of the natural tick “dowel” and how it could serve as a template for new tissue adhesives. “The tissue adhesives that are currently used in surgery, for example for serious skin injuries or liver tears, are toxic to some extent,” explains the MedUni Vienna researcher. On the other hand, other adhesives are not strong enough. Biological alternatives would therefore be ideal. The research project should help to find new alternatives and applications for existing adhesive products for skin, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.
Currently 300 Austrian ticks and their “cement” are being analysed and studied at MedUni Vienna. This involves the creatures biting through a skin-like membrane, causing the adhesive to be secreted and cured. During the course of this year, giants ticks are going to be studied for this purpose in South Africa.
Other potential bioadhesive donors
Using the adhesive threads of blue mussels, the adhesive molecule of which, DOPA (a modification of the amino acid tyrosine) is already in the preclinical trial phase, an international research group has already succeeded in replicating and producing alternative adhesives. “However, because of its low bonding strength, the DOPA bonding mechanism is not suitable for all medical applications, so that there is still a need for new adhesives,” explains Nürnberger. Other potential “adhesive donors” are sea cucumbers, which shoot sticky threads out of their sac; species of salamander, which secrete extremely fast-drying adhesive out of skin glands, if attacked; or insect larvae, which produce tentacles or crabs, which can remain firmly “stuck”, even under water.
Link to the project: http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/ca/CA15216.
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