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Nature's Strongest Glue as a Medical Adhesive?

A bacterium that lives in rivers, streams, and aqueducts uses nature's strongest glue to stay in one place, according to scientists at Indiana University Bloomington and Brown University.

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

Caulobacter crescentus affixes itself to solid objects with its stalk and holdfast.
A Caulobacter crescentus affixes itself surfaces using its long, slender stalk. The end of the stalk is dotted with polysaccharides (chains of sugar molecules). While researchers are not positive that these sugars are attached to adhesive proteins, they are certain the polysaccharides are sticky.

The scientists let the bacterium attach itself to the side of a glass pipette, and then used a micromanipulator to trap the cell portion and pull it directly away from the pipette, measuring the force of the strain. The scientists found they had to apply 0.11 to 2.26 micronewtons per cell before the bacterium detached. The bacterial adhesions can withstand (70 N/mm2) equivalent to 5 T/in.2.

C. crescentus lives in extremely nutrient-poor conditions and produces no human toxins, so it poses no threat to human health. Researchers envision using it as a biodegradable surgical adhesive and think the glue could be mass-produced to coat surfaces for medical and engineering purposes. "The challenge will be to produce large quantities of this glue without it sticking to everything that is used to produce it," says IU Bloomington bacteriologist Yves Brun.

More Information:
Indiana University Bloomington

This web only article appeared in the December 2006 issue of the Fastening & Joining e-mail newsletter. If you enjoyed this article and would like to read similar articles sign up today for our free e-mail newsletters!

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