Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sea Worms and Shattered Faces

If I lived near a beach, I'd spend most of my time walking along it and looking for crap that I could use as a makeshift glue to hold things in place inside my body. Wouldn't you? I mean, what else is there worth doing at a beach?

Sadly, any breakthroughs I wished to make in the glamorous field of seaborne adhesives look like they've already been made. The University of Utah has been studying Sandcastle worms, which live in intertidal surf (naturally, Utah would be the source of that kind of research, due to its proximity to the oceans). The worms build their homes by gluing together whatever materials are on hand, be they eggshells, beads, sand, etc.

The glue is worth studying because most current glues don't stick to wet surfaces. How often do you think surgeons deal with dry surfaces when they're trying to reconstruct broken bones? Since current glues are useless in the bloody environs of the human body, this new worm glue might help hold small bone fragments in place while they heal (which is necessary because screws and wires aren't great for smaller bone pieces).

It's premature to celebrate, though. The synthetic worm glue that researchers have synthesized only performs 37% as well as commercial superglue. I'd say that some more research is in order.

This article was fun to read for a few reasons, but mostly because of the phrase "shattered faces."

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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