This Barnacle-Inspired Glue Seals Bleeding Organs in Seconds

In some ways, excessive bleeding can be considered an engineering problem.
Hyunwoo Yuk is a researcher in mechanical engineering at MIT. We have a way to fix it.

Every year, approximately 1.9 million people are killed by blood loss. Sometimes it is from trauma or on the operating table. Wet bodies can become infected and are a sign that you need immediate care. It is difficult to seal wet tissue and commercial products to stop bleeding are dependent on coagulants that take minutes to work. Some people don't have the time.

Yuks has been working on a completely new approach to stopping bleeding for seven years. Particularly, glue inspired from barnacles. Yuk believes barnacles offer an evolutionary solution for sticking to surfaces that are not easily damaged. His team showed that this glue-like arthropod can stop bleeding within seconds in a Nature Biomedical Engineering study.

Yuk used products commonly used by surgeons to treat rats suffering from bleeding heart and liver injuries in the experiment. The bleeding did not stop. He applied the oily paste to other areas. He claims that the exact same injury could be repaired in less than 10 seconds.

Thanks to the glue, the rats survived. Yuks collaborators at Mayo Clinic also tested the glue on pigs. Although their evidence is still preliminary, it bodes well for patients with liver, blood and heart disorders. Hanjay Wang, a Stanford University resident who was not part of the study, said that their overall impression is that this material is amazing. It fills an important need in emergency situations, where you need to have control.

Engineers knew that they could find inspiration from the animal world. Yuk states that survival is the driving force behind nature's evolution. You can almost always find an animal that has already evolved to solve your problem if you're trying to solve a problem. He says that barnacles attracted their attention because they were sticky. It sticks to rocks, on rusted steel and on slimy surfaces such as turtles and whales.

Barnacles stick to each other because of the cement of proteins produced by the glands on each animal's forehead. However, the secret saucewell is more like an oil. A combination of lipids first removes contaminants from surfaces so that the proteins can do their job. Yuk explains that they are basically terraforming the substrate and priming it for strong sealing.

It turns out, you need the same superpower to stop bleeding tissue from animals. Yuk says blood is a contaminated fluid in a sense that it is not a homogeneous fluid, but rather a mixture of blood cells. To make an adhesive work, you have to push those cells aside.

Yuks team used barnacle proteins as their test glue. Instead, they used a chemical rubric to create a high-pressure physical barrier. Instead of using sticky protein particles, the Yuks team repurposed an earlier lab invention: biocompatible adhesive sheet made from a mixture of organic molecules, water and chitosana sugar, which is found in hard shellfish exoskeletons. Barnacles uses a similar compound called Chitin and chitosan, which is widely used in wound dressings. They then tossed the sheets into an electric grinder, which pulverized them into pieces measuring approximately one hundredth of millimeter in diameter.