We often view slugs as nothing more than slimy, slow-moving garden pests, but it turns out that the mucus secreted by slugs and snails is unlike any other kind of gel out there. Over at Ithaca College, this slug slime is being researched as inspiration for a new type of medical adhesive that could someday make sutures, staples, and even current medical adhesives obsolete.
What the Ithaca College researchers have discovered so far is that a slug’s slime is slippery, helps the slug glide across the surface, and consists of “a dilute, tangled network of polymers that are neither a solid nor fluid”. The slime contains metal ions, such as zinc, calcium, iron, and copper which help create strong cross-links between the polymers that will stiffen the slime, although the researchers are still investigating what the slug actually does to cause the slime to turn from slippery to sticky.
If the researchers can figure out the secret behind the slug’s slime, they say it could lead to a medical adhesive that’s better than surgical glues nowadays. Current medical adhesives can cause leakage because of exposure to body fluids and are best suited for relatively straight, clean, and shallow cuts. However, the slug glue will be able to stick to wet surfaces and will bend and flex well, which will promote better healing and allow it to be used in a wider variety of wounds.