Slugs aren't known to summon the most pleasant of our memories. Icky, slimy, disgusting are all adjectives associated with this invertebrate which often meets it wretched fate under our unsuspecting hands or feet.
But it turns out, slugs aren't so (seemingly) useless after all!
A team at the Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has developed a "bio-glue", that is inspired from the icky, but tremendously useful slug mucus.
To understand the significance of this breakthrough, you only need to imagine what happens to the most secure of bandages when they come in contact with water.
Or how difficult it is to retain a bandage on a moving body part, like the knee, the elbow or for that matter, the heart.
The super sticky slug-inspired glue has been used by the team to seal a hole in a pig heart.
Not only that, its effectiveness was tested by simulating heartbeats repeatedly, to satisfactory results.
The strength of this glue increases with time, while remaining pliable and resistant to dampness.
This makes it an effective substitute for surgical sutures (used for stitches) and medical adhesives.
Dr Jianyu Li who worked on this study told the BBC,
I'm really amazed by this system. We have solved a big challenge and opened up big opportunities in the medical setting. The applications are pretty broad - the material is very tough, stretchy and compliant, which is very useful when you want to interface with a dynamic tissue like the heart or lungs.
The slug in question, the Dusky Arion slug secretes a protective coating of mucus when it senses danger. The stickiness is enough to root the slug firmly to the ground if a predatory bird tries to pick it away - somewhat like a shoe stuck in chewing gum. The adhesive quality comes from positive ions in the mucus which are attracted to the negatively charged cells of the body, and the "shock-absorbent" component, which can resist considerable physical strain.
These characteristics of slug mucus went into designing this bio-glue, which, while still tested under laboratory conditions, has the potential to transform medicine.
Nature, they rightly say, has all the answers.
Title image: mlbs