Was It Designed?
The Sandcastle Worm’s Glue
● Surgeons repair broken bones with the help of pins, plates, and screws, but those tools are too cumbersome for use on smaller bone fragments. Until recently, researchers were baffled about how to develop an adhesive that could solidify in the wet environment of the human body. They found a possible solution by studying the sandcastle worm!
Consider: The sandcastle worm makes its tubular underwater home out of particles of sand and shell. Each particle is bonded to the next with a dab of glue that is manufactured by a gland in the worm’s thorax. This glue is superior to currently used man-made adhesives. It contains a unique set of proteins that when combined cause the glue to solidify under water—and quickly! The sandcastle worm has been called a master mason, and for good reason. Russell Stewart, of the University of Utah, says that this little animal has solved “complicated adhesion problems.”
Researchers have made synthetic versions of the sandcastle worm’s glue that have even greater strength than the original. The glue that is finally used in operating rooms will also have to be biodegradable so that when used to mend broken bones, the glue will dissolve as the bone heals. If this glue proves useful in humans, it will be a medical breakthrough.
What do you think? Did the sandcastle worm’s unique glue come about by chance? Or was it designed?
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Researchers hope to repair broken bones without using metal pieces
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Sandcastle worm: © Peter J. Bryant, University of California, Irvine