A surgical glue that shuts down bleeding wounds in 60 seconds

The ability of mussels to stubbornly bind themselves to underwater surfaces has intrigued scientists for years. If this ability could be recreated in the lab, it could lead to new adhesives for all kinds of applications. A team of Korean scientists has now developed a surgical glue inspired by these natural wonders that’s claimed to be cheaper, more reliable and incur less scarring than existing solutions.

In surgery, stitches and staples are very effective at binding body tissue together, but they can cause scarring and aren’t always appropriate when treating more sensitive flesh and organs. These drawbacks have motivated the development of adhesives that are strong enough to hold tissue together in wet environments, and do so without inciting adverse chemical reactions…

Scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology have a…solution…inspired by intersections of amino acids called tyrosines that can be found in dragonfly wings and insect cuticles. These are created by exposure to visible light, a process that boosts both their strength and stickiness.

The team found that when they took mussel proteins chock-full of tyrosines and exposed them to blue visible light, the photochemical reaction saw them instantly pair up to form these tyrosine intersections. The result was a material with better structural stability and adhesive properties. They have dubbed it light-activated, mussel protein-based adhesive (LAMBA) and claim to have proven its superiority to existing surgical glues. In testing the glue in animals, the scientist say it was able to close bleeding wounds in less than 60 seconds and healed them without inflammation or scarring.

Sounds good to me. Can’t wait till there’s an over-the-counter version. Hopefully, affordable.

We must change our ways if we’re to fight fatbergs


Click to enlarge – if you can stand it!

It was a ball of grease so enormous, so destructive and so repugnant that not just London, but the whole world, recoiled in horror. The city’s biggest-ever fatberg lurked under Kingston-upon-Thames for three weeks while engineers tried to dislodge it. It will take a further six to repair the damage it caused. This bus-sized sewer monster may have been remarkable for its sheer size, but it has hundreds of relatives sitting in wait beneath streets across Britain. And it’s getting worse.

And, please, don’t think these blobs don’t live beneath cities in other lands.

Fatbergs are primarily caused by the oils, fats and grease disposed by households into the sewer system. Although these substances normally appear as liquids in the kitchen, they become solid at low temperatures in the sewers.

Items such as cotton buds and wet wipes, which do not disintegrate in the sewers like toilet paper, provide structural support for the fatbergs to latch onto and continue to grow. This leads to the blockage of sewers with resulting sewage overflow. Waste food materials such as peas, beans and other vegetable pieces also add to the problem if disposed of into the drains. Fatbergs anchor themselves to the sewer walls as the partially degraded fat reacts with calcium in sewage to form hardened soap.

Fat in sewage has been a gradually increasing problem as diet and lifestyles have evolved. Over the past three to four decades, the increase in fat, oil and grease in sewage initially caused “fat balls” in sewage and as these grew larger in size, they have been recently described as fatbergs…

Most commonly, fatbergs are removed by hand-shovelling. Jet pressure is also used either to break it up into small pieces, so they are carried with the sewage to the treatment plant, or to be removed by vacuum suction. There are new chemical and biochemical methods being developed, but these are not deployed on large scale yet…

But if we really want to fight fatbergs, we have to change our domestic habits. And it’s relatively straightforward. We can minimise the problem of fatbergs by refraining from disposing oil and fat down the sink, removing oil and fat from plates and pans before they are put in the dishwasher, and throwing wet wipes and other non-degradable items in the bin, rather than flushing them.

Reflect upon your own plumbing as well. Not the bits in your home. The parts of your body where fat gets to reside, encapsulated or not, adhesive or otherwise. Try a healthier diet, folks.

Archaeologists discover world’s oldest paint shop

A group of Home sapiens came across a picturesque cave on the coast of South Africa around 100,000 years ago. They unloaded their gear and set to work, grinding iron-rich dirt and mixing it gently with heated bone in abalone shells to create a red, paint-like mixture. Then they dipped a thin bone into the mixture to transfer it somewhere before leaving the cave — and their toolkits — behind…

Researchers now have uncovered those paint-making kits, sitting in the cave in a layer of dune sand, just where they had been left 100,000 years ago. The find is the oldest-known example of a human-made compound mixture, said study researcher Christopher Henshilwood, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. It’s also the first known example of the use of a container anywhere in the world, 40,000 years older than the next example, Henshilwood told LiveScience.

Along with the toolkits, Henshilwood said, the archaeology team found pieces of ocher, or colored clay, etched with abstract designs…

This cave, now known as Blombos Cave, has been under excavation since 1992. The cave clearly was used as a shelter for tens of thousands of years of human history, with younger rock layers yielding evidence of cooking fires and food remains.

Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, told LiveScience in an email: “Since ocher-rich compounds have several potential applications, it is necessary to conduct experiments to test the effectiveness of the ancient recipe as paint, adhesive or another product…”

The combination of ingredients may not tell researchers how the ancient mixture was used, but other items reveal how it was made. Along with the shells and ocher were assorted bone fragments, including the scapula of a seal, and a number of quartzite stones that had been used to grind the ocher down…

RTFA. Archaeologists keep learning of hominid achievements earlier than we used to think possible. And that includes upgrading the complexity and sophistication of those achievements.

I have nothing but pride in learning of our antecedents. Folks who fear evolution and crap their drawers over African origins? Well, they can stick with ignorance and superstition.

New adhesive: eco-benign, inexpensive


Kaichang Li

An incidental discovery in a wood products lab at Oregon State University has produced a new pressure-sensitive adhesive that may revolutionize the tape industry – an environmentally benign product that works very well and costs much less than existing adhesives based on petrochemicals…

The discovery was made essentially by accident while OSU scientists were looking for something that could be used in a wood-based composite product – an application that would require the adhesive to be solid at room temperature and melt at elevated temperatures.

For that, the new product was a failure…

“Then I noticed that at one stage of our process this compound was a very sticky resin,” Li said. “I told my postdoctoral research associate, Anlong Li, to stop right there. We put some on a piece of paper, pressed it together and it stuck very well, a strong adhesive.”

Shifting gears, the two researchers then worked to develop a pressure-sensitive adhesive, the type used on many forms of tape, labels, and notepads.

It’s really pretty amazing,” Li said. “This adhesive is incredibly simple to make, doesn’t use any organic solvents or toxic chemicals, and is based on vegetable oils that would be completely renewable, not petrochemicals. It should be about half the cost of existing technologies and appears to work just as well…”

The new approach used at OSU is based on a different type of polymerization process and produces pressure-sensitive adhesives that could be adapted for a wide range of uses, perform well, cost much less, and would be made from renewable crops such as soy beans, corn or canola oil, instead of petroleum-based polymers.

The technology should be fairly easy to scale-up and commercialize, Li said.

“We believe this innovation has the potential to replace current pressure-sensitive adhesives with a more environmentally friendly formulation at a competitive price.”

The best scientists, the best science requires open, flexible minds – ready to respond to the unexpected with unintended discoveries.

Kaichang Li already has this sort of reputation. We should be glad he’s teaching future scientists to think and act to his standard.

Weightlifting ant is photo contest winner

An amazing image of an ant lifting 100 times its body weight has won first prize in a science photography contest.

The image shows an Asian weaver ant hanging upside down on a glass-like surface and holding a 500mg (0.02oz) weight in its jaws.

It was taken by zoology specialist Dr Thomas Endlein of Cambridge University as he researched insects’ sticky feet…The research shows how ants change the size and shape of the pads on their feet to enable them to carry heavier loads…

“The pads on ants’ feet are self-cleaning and can stick to almost any type of surface,” he said.

“No man-made glue or adhesive system can match this. Understanding how animals can control their adhesive systems should help us come up with clever adhesives in the future.”

Wow! Give that ant an extra homoptera for dinner.

Robots scale new heights

The robots can scale surfaces using the same principles behind electrostatic charges, which make balloons stick to ceilings after being rubbed.

Developed by a team in SRI’s Mobile Robotics and Transducers Programme, the machines are about the size of a remote-controlled car and have caterpillar tracks similar to those on toy tanks.

Inside these tracks are materials with electro-adhesive properties, which mean that when a current is applied, the tracks are attracted to the wall, preventing the robots from falling off.

Research engineer Harsha Prahlad told BBC, “The robot carries with it positive and negative charges, and when the walls sees these charges it automatically generates the opposite charge. The robot can then clamp onto those charges.

“In some ways it is similar to rubbing a balloon and sticking it on the wall, except we carry our own power supply and are able to control the adhesion.”

Next, they’re working on walking along on the ceiling.