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Mussels in the Surgical SuiteMussels are among my favorite seafood, but imagine using them to help you heal.

What? That sounds pretty weird!

I know. But new research shows the adhesive mussels produce to stick to a rock can be used in surgery to close wounds or to knit bones together.

The big deal here is that traditional methods like sutures and staples can cause irritation, inflammation and infection. We do have synthetic adhesives, but they’re not biodegradable and can also cause inflammation.

So this new mussel adhesive, which lab tests show to be safe, effective and biodegradable may be the answer.

Actually, many naturally produced adhesives are superior in strength and durability to man made materials. Some examples are adhesives made by bacteria, spiders, marine tubeworms, sea cucumbers, barnacles, and mussels.

Marine mussels attach to a variety of surfaces underwater and can withstand turbulent forces. That’s because their adhesive is incredibly strong and durable.

In fact, no synthetic glues can match it.

Research has shown that one of its adhesive proteins can bond to plastic, wood, concrete and Teflon. And now scientists are trying to fabricate a biomimetic version of the mussel adhesive protein, which is known as MAPS.

There’s interest in using MAPs as a tissue adhesive or even to join bone grafts internally. What really has physicians excited is the ability to apply these adhesives using inkjet technology.

That’s because inkjet printers are very precise, and the technology would allow surgeons to lay down the adhesive right where it’s needed. They’d be valuable in intricate operations like eye surgery and bone grafting.

The result is quicker healing, less pain and less scarring.

Mussels, not just for dinner anymore.

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For more information…

North Carolina State University report about the use of mussel adhesives in combination with inkjet printers for improved surgical outcomes here and here and another one here.

For information marine mussel adhesion you can read a scientific publication about the topic here.

Google books has some excellent information about mussel adhesives here.

The publication entitled "Marine Biotechnology in the Twenty-First Century: Problems, Promise and Products" contains a chapter entitled "Session 3: Biomaterials and Bioengineering – The Commercialization of a Biopolymer Extracted From the Marine Mussel, Mystilus edulis" and can be read here.


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