You've heard of 'sticky fingers?' Well, green mussels, aka Perna viridis, have sticky feet! And that is the secret -- just released by scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara's (UCSB) Marine Science Institute -- of their superior adhesive powers.
Image credit: Rob Rolle
Mussels have been biomimicked by chemists before, finding several solutions for industrial adhesive applications. But those synthetic adhesives were inspired by the mussels' "Dopa," an amino acid like the Dopa that is used to treat Parkinson's and other diseases.
The green mussel's sticky feet have a more complicated chemistry than other mussels, one that allows it to adhere more strongly to wet surfaces. This chemistry relies on an elaborate modification of the amino acid tryptophan. Mimicking the chemistry of the green mussel's sticky feet will enable scientists to create stronger bonding technologies for teeth and bones, as well as stronger adhesives for sea-faring vessels.
UCSB's Professor J. Herbert Waite and his team of investigators have been unraveling the mystery of the green mussel for six years. Their findings are published in the August 28, 2009 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Sources: UCSB Press Release via RDMag, Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission Fact Sheet