--An excellent resource for Health Science Topics from National Public Radio

--Another excellent blogspot from the American Journal of Nursing


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Gluing Broken Bones

Friday, August 21st, 2009--
Most of us probably know someone with some metal in their body—a screw, a loop of wire, a plate. These bionic braces have been used for years to keep bones in place as they heal, but complicated compound breaks can be difficult to stitch back together with screws and wire, and breaks in the small delicate flakes of bone in a wrist or an ankle can be almost impossible to mend properly. Scientists now think a tiny sea creature found off the coast of California may hold the key to better fracture repair.

The sandcastle worm (Phragmatopoma californica) builds its home by gluing bits of sand and shell together under water. Russell Stewart a bioengineer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City examined the worm’s adhesive and discovered that it hardens due to a change in acidity between the animal’s glue sacs and the ocean water. (As opposed to the superglue we use around the house, which hardens when it comes into contact with air.) By mimicking this natural process, Stewart and his team have created a synthetic glue that is as strong as household superglue but can be used under water. The new glue has passed toxicity studies in cell cultures and the researchers hope to test it inside the human body soon.

As a bonus, Stewart’s team is also looking into adding other molecules to the glue that could deliver medicines directly to a fracture site.

-Erik Ortlip