Scientists questing after a long-sought new medical adhesive describe copying the natural glue secreted by a tiny sea creature called the sandcastle worm in the latest episode in the American Chemical Society's (ACS) award-winning podcast series, "Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions." Such an adhesive is needed to repair bones shattered in battlefield injuries, car crashes, and other accidents. The traditional method of repairing shattered bones involves use of mechanical fasteners like pins and metal screws to support the bone during healing. But achieving and maintaining alignment of small bone fragments using screws and wires is challenging, according to researchers who presented their study results at the ACS 238th National Meeting in Washington, D.C. in mid-August. The podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from the ACS at www.acs.org/globalchallenges. It features audio clips of Dr. Russell Stewart, a bioengineer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Dr. Stewart says this synthetic glue is based on complex coacervates, an ideal, but so far unused, method for making injectable adhesives. Coacervates are tiny spherical droplets of assorted organic molecules (specifically, lipid molecules) that are held together by hydrophobic forces from a surrounding liquid. He explains that the idea of using natural adhesives in medicine is an old one dating back to the first investigations of mussel adhesives in the 1980s. Yet almost 30 years later, there are no adhesives based on natural adhesives used in the clinic.
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