Mussel Goo Makes Blood Vessels Glue

By Selina Haefeli

Gluey mussel goo is a promising treatment to help strengthen blood vessels.

Have you ever tried to rip a mussel off a rock? If you have, you probably noticed how strongly it was attached to the surface and needed to fetch a sharp utensil to help prize it off. This is because mussels produce gluey goo that sticks them to surfaces — and not even a powerful wave will set them free.

This super strong slime was the inspiration behind a gel invented by researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, to help strengthen blood vessels at risk of rupturing. Assistant professor Christian Kastrup co-invented the adhesive gel. He explains how he was searching for a material that could withstand the dynamic flow of blood and was soft like tissue. He brainstormed with his colleagues about suitable materials, and one of them had experience researching the chemistry of mussel goo. By considering the similar environments that mussels (high power churning water) and blood vessels (high velocity blood flow) have to endure, the team thought their “crazy idea” might just work.

Cardiovascular diseases—including heart attack, stroke and weakened blood vessels—are Australia’s biggest killers. Major problems occur when plaques on blood vessels rupture. The resulting clot can block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack, or to the brain, resulting in a stroke. The researchers tested their gel on mice and found that those treated with the gel had more stable plaques than control mice.

“After learning about blood clotting, and how heart attacks and strokes usually occur from clots that initially form at inflamed blood vessels, I wanted to find a way to treat these inflamed blood vessels”, said Kastrup, lead author of the paper published in PNAS Early Editions. “[Painting] diseased blood vessels with a protective and adhesive coating seemed like a crazy idea, but something that might just work. I have always enjoyed research that is a bit far-out there but based on solid science.”

Source: [University of British Columbia]