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Experimental surgical glue inspired by slugs

Boston, MA — Groundbreaking medical research published July 27 in Science is definitely of the sticky variety—researchers have created a surgical glue patch inspired by surface-clinging slugs.


Biomedical scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering first studied the European slug, which secretes a very sticky but very stretchy natural fluid.


That “glue” works in three microscopic ways. Its tiny surface proteins get tangled in other surfaces’ proteins to physically connect both.  Its positive electric charge attracts cells’ and tissues’ negative charge.  It also chemically bonds with organic tissue.


Using algae, which secretes a compound similar to slug fluid, the Harvard team then created a tough gelatin-like patch that is as sticky as super glue, stretchier than a rubber band, works on wet surfaces and isn’t toxic to human cells.


The new glue patch worked well in live animal experiments, researchers also found—sticking to and filling open wounds and withstanding repeated stretching.


Modern medicine’s hunt for a new surgical glue is driven by a fundamental problem with current surgical glue: If it’s strong, it’s not stretchy, and if it’s stretchy, it’s not strong.


The ideal surgical glue would be both—as is the natural “glue” produced by the European slug. 


But while the experimental patch is working so far, researchers say it’s years away from mainstream usage on people.


Genetic Tourette’s clue found

Washington, D.C. — An international university research team partially funded by the NIH discovered that about one in 100 people with Tourette’s syndrome carry one of two genetic mutations.


The comparison study of over 2,400 people with Tourette’s with over 4,000 without found deletions in the NRXN1 gene, or duplications in the CNTN6 gene, in about one percent of the Tourette’s group.


The finding is significant because the NRXN1 and CNTN6 genes produce molecules that help brain cells connect to each other.  They are also part of the brain that controls emotions and movement.


The study was published June 21 in Neuron.


New genetic mutations behind eczema found

Denver, CO — Genetic research into eczema, a sometimes-severe skin disorder, discovered previously unknown mutations in the CARD11 gene in four patients with severe eczema.


The genetic discovery was jointly made by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Jewish Health hospital in Denver, Colorado, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. 


Relentless flaky, itchy, bumpy, dry skin is a daily issue for people with eczema.  Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is an inflammatory skin condition.  It affects an estimated 30 percent of the U.S. population, mostly children and adolescents.


Severe atopic dermatitis is a less common form of eczema that can be severely debilitating and may also be accompanied by frequent infections and severe immune system defects.


The findings suggest that supplements of the amino acids glutamine and leucine might help reverse the defects caused by these mutations.  Trials are now being planned to test the approach.


The findings were published June 19 in Nature Genetics.