Today we’re writing about slugs. Not the punch-to-the-face type, or the shotgun ammunition type, but the slimy, slow moving gastropod type. What does this garden pest have to do with medical innovation? That’s a very good question.
Surgery has advanced a long way in the last 200 years. Yet it is one thing to make an incision, to close it is another thing entirely. Glues and stitches exist, but elusive has been an adhesive that is benign to healthy tissue, is flexible, stretchy, robust, and inexpensive. Current products have some of those qualities but not all of them. The benefits of such an adhesive are big. If a surgeon has to make an incision on an organ like the heart or kidney, it would be great to be able to close it with glue that would flex and stretch with heart beats, not harm the surrounding tissue and not permit the incision to reopen. This is where the humble slug comes in; in particular the Arion Subfuscus variety.
Like all slugs, this one produces slime, but also has a unique ability…it can glue itself to surfaces to defend itself from predators like birds. When threatened the slug will glue itself to any surface, no matter the type, and it also doesn’t matter if the surface is wet. The slug remains able to bend, but a predator will find it difficult to dislodge it. Super strength, really bendy and stretchy, non-toxic, and the ability to bond to any surface what could be better. The medical value is obvious. It has potential to reduce complications by preventing the inflammation current stitches and glues cause. Plus researchers say it could be used to patch tissues in organs like the heart with minimally invasive surgeries. So there you have it, glue derived from a slug could be used on you the next time you need surgery. Nature is full of surprises like that.