Charles Darwin was the first to observe that Ivy exudes a liquid adhesive that helps it to cling to surfaces. Now researchers at Ohio State University have identified the protein that allows Ivy to stick. Nanospherical arabinogalactan proteins (AGPs) allow Ivy’s adhesive to enter nanoscale openings rather than just coating surfaces. Curing takes place due to calcium-driven electrostatic interactions among carboxyl groups of the AGPs and pectic acids. As water evaporates from the adhesive, chemical bonds are formed between adhesive and substrate.
The researchers say that their discovery opens up the possibility of applying its findings to the development of adhesives for a wide range of applications ranging from medical adhesives to coatings and even cosmetics. To test their hypothesis, the researchers created a basic adhesive using ivy nanoparticles combined with pectic polysaccharides and calcium ions. The prototype adhesive could form the basis for future high strength adhesives and coatings and may allow for the development of engineered scaffolds for use in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.