Gel inspired by mussels might act as filling putty for blood vessels


December 12, 2012

Scientists have created a mussel-inspired gel, which may ultimately save human lives 
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Scientists have created a mussel-inspired gel, which may ultimately save human lives (Photo: Shutterstock)

Mussels have an amazing ability to cling to rocks, even when buffeted by large waves and ocean debris on a daily basis. Now, scientists have created a bioadhesive gel inspired by those mussels, that could potentially be used to reinforce weakened blood vessels.

The gel, which was developed by a team at MIT, is capable of withstanding the flow velocity of the human bloodstream. It is said to be similar to an amino acid present in the mussel’s byssus – this is a fibrous adhesive material that's stiff enough to keep the mollusk in place, yet stretchy enough to flex without snapping.

In the same way that putty can be used to fill in dents in a wall, it is hoped that the gel could be "painted" onto the inside of compromised human blood vessel walls, to keep them from rupturing. It could also conceivably be used as an insulating barrier, to keep stents (which are inserted in narrowed blood vessels to open them up) from causing inflammation through direct contact with the blood vessel wall.

The most promising use of the gel, however, would be to keep blood vessel plaque deposits from rupturing. When such deposits do rupture, the released plaque can cause heart attacks or strokes, by blocking blood flow to the heart or brain. In lab tests, mice had their plaque deposits covered with a version of the gel that contained an anti-inflammatory steroid. Subsequently, those mice were shown to have more stable plaque than a group of untreated animals.

The University of British Columbia assisted in the research, which was recently described in a paper published in the journal PNAS Early Edition. The University of Chicago has previously created a mussel-inspired gel of its own, which could possibly find use as a surgical adhesive or a bonding agent for implants.

Source: UBC

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

for all the biomimemtic effort out there worth applause and recognition, it is still worth noting that natures biological systems operate on a real time and continuous production basis; the mussles' gel deteriorates and is constantly upkept by growth/secretion/repair by the muscle itself.

dynamic living organisms cannot be swept out of the picture altogether when it comes to understanding the substances and mechanisms that they produce and utilize.


Coupeville is on the shores of Penn Cove famous for "Penn Cove Mussels. It sounds like now we'll have those little crustaceans to thank for something else besides tasting good in a nice rich garlic butter sauce.

I wonder if the "butter sauce" is why my arteries need strengthening ;-)

Ken Bloomquist
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