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Scientists Uncover Cellular Mechanisms Behind Mussel-based Adhesive

Published on 2021-10-11. Edited By : SpecialChem

TAGS:  Natural-based Adhesives    
A McGill-led international research team has succeeded in uncovering the cellular mechanisms by which mussels fabricate underwater adhesives.

To understand the mechanisms involved researchers applied advanced spectroscopic and microscopic techniques and developed an experimental approach that combined several advanced and basic methodologies from across biochemistry, chemistry, and materials science.

Process at the Subcellular Level

By gathering information at a subcellular level, the researchers discovered that within the mussel foot, there are micron-sized channels (ranging in diameter from 1/10 to the full width of a human hair) which funnel the substances that come together to make the glue.

Condensed fluid proteins in tiny sacs (vesicles) are secreted into the channels where they mix with metal ions (iron and vanadium, taken up from seawater). The metal ions, which are also stored in small vesicles, are slowly released in a carefully timed process, eventually curing (or hardening) the fluid protein into a solid glue.

Mussels can make their underwater adhesive within 2-3 minutes by mixing metal ions with the fluid proteins,” explains Matthew Harrington, an associate professor in McGill’s Chemistry Department and the senior author on the paper. “It’s a matter of bringing together the right ingredients, under the right conditions using the right timing. The more we understand about the process, the better engineers will later be able to adapt these concepts for manufacturing bio-inspired materials.”

The accumulation and use of vanadium are especially interesting, since only a few other organisms are known to hyperaccumulate vanadium. The researchers believe that it plays an important role in hardening the glue and are continuing to work in this area.

Source: McGill University

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