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General Health Channel
Reported February 18, 2013

Mussel-Inspired Glue for Medical Use

 

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Mussels are nature's glue.  They can adhere to all inorganic and organic surfaces while sustaining their bonds in saltwater.  Now, researchers are exploring ways to mimic mussel adhesive proteins for three medical uses: sealants for fetal membrane repair, self-setting antibacterial hydrogels, and polymers for cancer drug delivery and thermal destruction of cancer cells.  
 
"Mussel adhesion is a remarkable process involving secretion of liquid protein glue that hardens rapidly into a solid, water-resistant adhesive.  Several aspects of this process inspire our development of synthetic materials for practical applications. An unusually compelling opportunity for translation of mussel-adhesion concepts is in the repair or reconstruction of tissues in the human body, where water is ubiquitous and its presence represents a challenge for achieving desired outcomes,” Phillip B. Messersmith, Professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, was quoted as saying.  
 
The mussel produces sticky glue that allows it to stick to rocks and other surfaces.  The key to its stickiness is a family of proteins called mussel adhesive proteins, which contain a high concentration of the catecholic amino acid DOPA (dihydroxyphenylalanine).  
 
Messersmith’s materials contain a synthetic version of DOPA.  For the application of fetal membrane repair, his synthetic polymer is formulated as solidifying liquid glue that adheres to the wet tissue and seals fetal membrane defects.  
 
For the application of self-setting antibacterial hydrogels, Messersmith employs silver both to induce hydrogel cross-linking via catechol oxidation and as a precursor for silver nanoparticle formation.  The silver nanoparticles then become embedded within the hydrogel structure, releasing silver ions to create an antibacterial effect.  
 
As for the application of a cancer drug delivery and destruction removal of cancer cells, Messersmith’s polymer designs forms pH-sensitive drug delivery vehicles that are inactive and stable in the bloodstream, but are activated in the acidic tumor environment, which liberates the drug.  Another version involves modifying the surface of gold nanorods with a mussel-inspired polymer coating.  It helps the nanorods target cancer cells, and then the nanorods are irradiated with to produce highly localized heating that destroys cancer cells.  
 
SOURCE:  Presentation by Phillip Messersmith:  Mussel Inspired Materials for Surgical Repair and Drug Delivery, February 2013
 
 
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