Slug Mucus Makes Malleable Medical Adhesive

Aug. 2, 2017

I can’t turn around without slipping in slug slime. I go out to my garden – slugs. I scroll around on Facebook – slugs. In fact, a friend just posted about the Leopard Slug (limax maximus). According to him (he’s a naturalist and nature photographer), these slugs are native to Europe and were first discovered in North America in 1867. Not an hour later another friend posted a picture of her son befriending a Leopard Slug. Then my editor sends me a link to a Guardian article touting the benefits of slug goo. Everywhere I look I see slugs.

Leopard Slug

My friend Chuck uses his hand as a point of reference to show the size of the Leopard Slug he found in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo Credit: Chuck Slusarczyk Jr.

Good thing I’ve never really been bothered by them. I actually think they are cute creatures. And unlike another friend of mine who was known to chase down slugs and pour salt on them before they ruined her plants, I like to watch them slowly travel across the land. Apparently researchers are also into slugs. The Guardian article notes that a team of scientists have developed tough, flexible glues designed to help patch up wounds, drawing on lessons learned from the creatures’ sticky goo.

While medical-grade glues exist, they have known issues including adhesives being weak, toxic to cells, unable to work well on wet surfaces and being rigid and brittle.

“[The research] both demonstrates the properties of slug mucus can inspire the design of new adhesives, and these adhesives have greatly superior properties to the currently available medical adhesives,” says Harvard University’s David Mooney, one of the authors of the study.

You can read the entire article on slug goo here.

Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. She is excited to wow her friends with her knowledge of slugs and will devote her life to protecting them from salt shakers. You can email her at [email protected].

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