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Question Your World: Is There A Glue That Can Help Fix Our Wounds?

Busted door knobs, broken heels, and cracked glasses are a few things that can be fixed using super glue. The quick bonding adhesive works on nearly everything, perhaps that's why this glue is considered to be super. As amazing as this glue is it still can't be used to help us seal up surgical cuts and incisions due to its toxicity. So, is there a way to make glue that won’t be dangerous for us? Is there a glue that can help fix our wounds? Find out in this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia.

The “all purpose” label on most tubes of super glue boast the wide variety of items that this adhesive will work on. In reality, this glue is great for most things, but our bodies are certainly not the ideal surface to be testing this product on. The problems of this glue’s toxic qualities would be significantly worse if applied under the skin. Though the practical application is not advised the concept is not a bad one. Glue would be a much better way of healing sensitive cuts and incisions in the body than the traditional method, stitches. As of now the medical world has yet to find a more practical way to help the body mend itself in some of these smaller areas. Why is stitching not the most desirable way to approach a recovering artery or vein? Well, consider how stitches work for a moment. In order to properly tie up the two loose areas a surgical string must be placed in the tissue and woven together just like cloth. This is a highly invasive method and is prone to infection setting in around the stitches. We have been able to work wonders with surgical stitches, but ultimately the procedure still has those draw backs. However, all that could change thanks to a new discovery recently made by Brigham and Women’s Hospital scientists in Boston, MA. A team of researchers stumbled across a naturally occurring source of glue that seems to have no negative effects on the human body. The source of this glue was nature's own sandcastle worm.

Many worms and bugs create a sticky glue as a natural byproduct. These scientists were able to use the gooey residue of the sandcastle worm and test it out on human tissues. The results were very positive. So positive that those involved in this have already started an $11 million company to manufacture and test this new adhesive on a large scale level. Other than being non-invasive and non-toxic this natural glue is also biodegradable and is naturally created with no lab intervention. Currently this is all still in very early testing phases, but the natural glue seems to have no negative side effects and could drastically impact how we send patients through the recovery process in the near future.

This is not the first time animals have been used to help with our medical practices. The difference is this is a much further studied and developed idea than any other animal usage in the past. Sandcastle worm glue being used for a patient’s recovery may bring up reminders of the medical field using leeches once upon a time, but this is a totally different approach. In fact the worm itself is not even involved in the final application. The harvested glue is stored in the medical tool and applied as needed once the surgery is complete and the incision needs to be sealed up. The practical applications for this range from plugging small holes in infants’ hearts to helping patients better recover from open heart surgeries. Research on this will continue, but don’t be shocked if you start to see some new practices put in place once these tests meet federal compliance. Once again, a better understanding of the natural world allows us to see the many tools that are readily available in some of the most unexpected places.

Article by Prabir MehtaScience Museum of Virginia

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