Biomaterials at the Beach: Characterization, Synthetic Mimics, and Applications of Shellfish Adhesives

Jonathan Wilker
Purdue University
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Duke University, Schiciano Side B | 4:30pm

“Modern” surgical joinery methods appear as though they were developed in the Dark Ages. Sutures poke holes in healthy tissue, create sites for infections, and concentrate mechanical stresses. Plates and screws necessitate the drilling out of large percentages of the surrounding, healthy bone to be put in place. Joining soft or hard tissues could be significantly less traumatic if we had access to biomedical adhesives. At this time, however, there is no available glue that can set in a wet environment, create strong bonds, and is not toxic. In the search for such new materials, we are turning to the seas. The oceans are home to a diverse collection of animals producing intriguing materials. Mussels, oysters, and barnacles are examples of the organisms generating adhesive matrices for affixing themselves to the sea floor. Our laboratory is characterizing these biological systems, developing synthetic polymer mimics, and then using the information we discover to develop biomimetic materials. These efforts are yielding polymers that adhere more strongly than Super Glue, bond well underwater, and are now being examined for attachment of soft and hard tissues.