Chemistry of oyster 'glue' identified

Sept. 20, 2010 at 6:36 PM
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Identifying the "glue" oysters use to stick together to form large reefs could provide advances for fisheries, boating and in medicine, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Purdue University say they've uncovered the chemical components of the oysters' adhesive, which could help those trying to boost dwindling oyster populations, lead to creation of materials to keep boat hulls clean without harming the environment, and aid researchers in creating wet-setting adhesives for use in medicine and construction, a university release said Monday.

"With a description of the oyster cement in hand, we may gain strategies for developing synthetic materials that mimic the shellfish's ability to set and hold in wet environments," Jonathan Wilker, a Purdue professor of chemistry and materials engineering, said.

"Dentistry and medicine may benefit from such a material. For instance, it would be great to have a surgical adhesive that could replace staples and sutures, which puncture healthy tissue and create potential sites for infection."

Researchers found the adhesive produced by oysters had almost five times the amount of protein and more water than what is found in oyster shells.

"The adhesive material differed significantly in composition from the shell, which indicates that the oyster produces a chemically distinct substance for sticking together," Wilker said.

Oysters stick together to reproduce and to protect themselves from predators and large waves. The reefs they create can stretch for miles and filter large volumes of water, prevent erosion and create a storm wall that strengthens coastlines, researchers said.

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