Medical science and technology development innovators have long understood the value of studying the innovations developed by biological organisms in the evolution of systems and processes that accomplish complex tasks.
The medtech industry has been progressively transitioning from medical and surgical wound closure systems that have been traditionally mechanical in nature (sutures, stapes, tapes) to chemical, biological and other products (fibrin, collagen, cyanoacrylate and other sealants/glues/hemostats), that provide wound closure emulating biological systems — and sometimes technology development need only co-opt systems that have already been developed in nature.
We have tracked via this blog (and note coverage in our Surgical Sealants/Glues 2010 Report) a stream of biological sources for new sealants and glues (see "Bio Glues") arising from mussels, spider webs, gecko feet, c. crescentus bacteria, burrowing frogs and others. Now, in the Jan. 24-28 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition (“pH-induced metal-ligand cross-links inspired by mussel yield self-healing polymer networks with near-covalent elastic moduli,”), University of Chicago researchers Niels Holten-Andersen et al have been able to develop a synthetic version of the fibers mussels use to securely anchor themselves in their turbulent coastal environment. (See the University of Chicago Press Release on this.)
As the researchers note:
Many existing synthetic coatings involve a compromise between strength and brittleness. Those coatings rely on permanent covalent bonds, a common type of chemical bond that is held together by two atoms that share two or more electrons. The bonds of the mussel-inspired material, however, are linked via metals and exhibit both strength and reversibility.
While already successful on a large scale, biomaterial- and chemical-based securement products have yet to fully realize their market potential, since the challenges that these products are targeting — in strength, ease of use, lack of toxicity and others — have yet to be completely met.
The annual global market for products in medical and surgical securement stands in excess of $10 billion.