Add tick cement to the list of natural adhesives pursued for medical applications

In past posts, we have reported on multiple naturally-occurring substances or methods for strong adhesion that are being investigated for their potential to be exploited for medical or surgical adhesion. These include adhesives from remora, mussels, geckos, crab shells, barnacles, Australian burrowing frogs, spider webs, porcupine quills, sandcastle worms, etc.

Researchers from MedUni Vienna and Vienna University of Technology are now investigating 300 different ticks for the “cement” used by the parasites to attach to hosts. The goal is to study the composition of the natural tick “dowel” used by the mouthparts of ticks and determine how it might serve as a template for new tissue adhesives.

The Vienna research also notes other natural adhesives are similarly being investigated for medical and surgical use:

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.

The incentive for studying natural adhesives is that they have been driven by evolution to provide strong adhesion without toxicity in various wet or dry conditions that are challenging for existing synthetic or existing natural glues (e.g., fibrin glues, cyanoacrylates, etc.). Surgical glues currently in use have some limitation arising from lesser strength, ease of use, toxicity, and other shortcomings. New glues will gain wider adoption, capturing procedure volume used with sutures, clips and other closure methods, particularly in internal use, if they are stronger and/or provide tighter seals (without needing to be combined with sutures on the same incision/wound) and do not cause the toxicity that some high strength medical glues do (e.g., synthetics like cyanoacrylates; “super glues”). The biologically-derived glues (or the surfaces structures of gecko feet) avoid the toxicities of synthetics and have often proven to have very high tensile strength. (The fast-curing cement used by barnacles has been shown to have a remarkable tensile strength of 5,000 pounds per square inch.)

Edit: See also, Biomimetic Glue, based on shellfish natural adhesive.


MedMarket Diligence tracks the technologies, clinical practices, companies, and markets associated with medical and surgical sealants and glues, with the most recent coverage in, “Worldwide Markets for Medical and Surgical Sealants, Glues, and Hemostats, 2015-2022,” (report #S290).