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Squid sucker teeth could advance human technology


July 3, 2014

The teeth inside squids' sucker rings help the creatures hang onto prey, and they could help us, too (Photo: Shutterstock)

The teeth inside squids' sucker rings help the creatures hang onto prey, and they could help us, too (Photo: Shutterstock)

There seems to be no end to the proposed human technologies based on attributes of the squid. The animals' beaks have inspired a material that could be used for medical implants, their muscles may lead us to color-changing clothing, the chitosan in their "pens" has been used to create a proton-conducting transistor, and their movements served as the inspiration for a soft-bodied robot. Now, it turns out that the teeth inside the suckers on their tentacles might be the basis for materials that could be used in fields such as reconstructive surgery.

Although the tentacles of smaller squids may go down our gullets pretty easily in the form of calamari, the sucker discs on them are actually each lined with a ring of sharp teeth. These help the animals latch onto prey – so no, they don't hold on purely by suction power.

What makes those sucker ring teeth (SRTs) particularly special, however, is the fact that they're made entirely of proteins. Most other natural hard materials, such as bone or mollusk shells, also contain minerals such as calcium chloride.

An international group of scientists, mainly from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, have so far identified 38 of these proteins. The components of them form into what are known as "ß-sheet" polymer networks. These same structures also give spider silk its high strength.

The hope is that these proteins could be made in a lab setting, and then used to create synthetic SRT material. That material could in turn be molded into artificial ligaments, scaffolds used to grow bone, fossil fuel-free foam packaging, and other strong-but-malleable items. Synthetic spider silk offers similar functionality, although the SRT material should reportedly be easier and more eco-friendly to produce.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: American Chemical Society

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
1 Comment

Never put a live squid in your pants

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