The National Research Council of Rende discovers superglue: a protein produced by mussels!

With its already important applications in the medical field and in the shipbuilding industry, The Institute of Nanotechnology of the National Research Council (CNR-Nanotec) in Rende (Cosenza), in collaboration with the University of Calabria and the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, revealed the mystery of a powerful natural glue produced by mussels.

Its strength lies in a protein ‘dryer’, which removes water molecules and then tenaciously adheres to the substrate.

Thanks to its properties, it will possible to develop new water-resistant adhesives, biodegradable and biocompatible, useful in the field of naval surgery, suturing wounds and repairing fractures.

The discovery was published in the journal Nature Communications.

“We are able treat this as a result of great applicable relevance, because even the most tenacious among modern synthetic adhesives are ineffective in generating adhesion in the presence of water molecules,” explains Bruno Zappone, the CNR-Nanotec.

The secret to getting the super-glue to work underwater was discovered by studying the Asian green mussels. These mollusks produce a sticky slime, secreting various proteins in a carefully orchestrated sequence.  At first, the mussel produces a protein ‘dryer’, which removes the water molecules and binds strongly to the substrate. On this first surface layer, a complex tissue protein is then built, where each protein plays a specific function (such as protection from the external environment or resistance to mechanical stresses).

“An ‘underwater glue’ could have important applications in the marine sector –Zappone points out – but there is no doubt about the  extraordinary medical applications, for example, to avoid unsightly surgical sutures, to reconstruct damaged tissues or broken bones, to repair detached retinas, or complement biomedical materials in the presence of fluids. “