The today’s standard in medical adhesives is super-glue. This of course, makes sense as cyanoacrylate is the strongest substance found that could be applicable to wounds. However, there are many things wrong with it, it is simply not a good idea anymore. It won’t stick to wet surfaces, hardens then breaks into plastic pieces and additionally can be toxic to living cells.
David Mooney, a professor of bioengineering at Harvard University, comments: “Sometimes it’s surprising, isn’t it? Over the evolutionary process, organisms have to face a number of different situations. It might take a million years, but in that time an organism can find the most elegant and effective way to rebuild a shell or patch a wound. Humans reach for a staple gun.”
The slug this all revolves around is called Arion Subfuscus. When a predator tries to take a bite out of it, Arion releases defensive mucus which quickly sets into a tough gel. Andrew Smith, a professor of biology at Ithaca College and an expert in the biochemical properties of mollusk mucus who was not involved in the study says: “When I discovered these slugs and picked one of them up, I knew this material was really amazing. It literally oozes off the back of the slug and sets in seconds into a really tough, elastic gel.”
Smith also adds: “The thing that makes it exciting is that the material is very tough.” it seems that this special mucus can be stretched over 10 times its own length and it will not snap as it remains flexible once it hardens. Also, it does stick to wet surfaces which is an amazing feature.
Jianyu Li, a postdoctoral fellow in Mooney’s lab, decided to replicate the amazing characteristics of this material and create a synthetic adhesive which could be used to seal wound in a surgical setting. And he did create it. Both Li and Smith highlight that the synthetic adhesive doesn’t contain any of the slugs mucus which means that they did not experiment on the animal. They only simply used it as an inspiration for their revolutionary product.