Green mussels’ secret may lead to new adhesives
Green mussels—tenacious invaders from the Asia-Pacific region that have taken hold in waters around the world—could inspire a new kind of adhesive based on their sticky feet.
Scientists have already developed adhesives and coatings inspired by other mussel species, but green mussels use a different kind of adhesive to stick to their surroundings—and they do it well, forming bulging colonies on buoys and boats, and blocking pipes.
The chemistry of the sticky substance exuded by green mussels is more complicated than the adhesive of any of the other mussel species that have been studied, and Waite and colleagues at UCSB and in Singapore spent six years getting to grips with it.
Other mussels have adhesives that contain an amino acid called Dopa—the same substance used to treat Parkinson’s disease—but the green mussel’s stickiness relies on an elaborate modification of the amino acid tryptophan.
Adhesives based on that chemistry could be used to join wet surfaces such as teeth and bones, and to repair ships’ hulls without having to haul them out of the water.