We already mimic them to make fly-fishing lures. But now scientists working on some advanced medical technology believe copycatting one tiny insect could hold promise for repairing human tissues and setting bones.
Instead of stitches and screws, doctors may soon call on the next generation of medical adhesives — glues and tape — to patch us up.
The inspiration? Caddisflies, a type of stream-dwelling, fish-baiting insects that live in creeks all across the United States.
The medical adhesives we use today work pretty well outside the body. Attach a waterproof bandage to dry skin, and it will stay put, for a time. Brands such as Super Glue and Krazy Glue, which employ compounds called cyanoacrylates, also resist degradation in water.
The challenge for mechanical engineers, however, is making compounds that will stick to things when they’re already submerged.
“Typically we can make an adhesive bond that is stable underwater,” saidNicholas Ashton, a bioengineering researcher at the University of Utah. “But we can’t form the bond underwater.”
The inside of the human body is a watery environment. People are 60 percent water. Our insides are as fluid as fish tanks, and hostile to chemical adhesives, so doctors use mechanical means to mend bones and sew up internal tissues.
“The second you go inside the body, it changes the ball game entirely,” said Ashton.