A new gel can be painted onto ruptured arteries and veins, protecting them. It was inspired by the mussel's knack for clinging.
Co-fabricated by Christian Kastrup, while he was a post-doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the gel is similar to the amino acid that enables mussels to resist the might of churning water.
The variant that Kastrup and his colleagues created can withstand the flow of blood through arteries and veins, the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition" reports.
The gel's "sheer strength" could shore up weakened vessel walls at risk of rupturing, much like the way putty can fill in dents in a wall, said Kastrup, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Michael Smith Lab, University of British Columbia, US.
By forming a stable barrier between blood and the vessel walls, the gel could also prevent the inflammation that typically occurs when a stent is inserted to widen a narrowed artery or vein; that inflammation often counteracts the opening of the vessel that the stent was intended to achieve, according to a Michael Smith Lab statement.
The widest potential application would be preventing the rupture of blood vessel plaque. When a plaque ruptures, the resulting clot can block blood flow to the heart (triggering a heart attack) or the brain (triggering a stroke).
Mice treated with a combination of the gel and an anti-inflammatory steroid had more stable plaque than a control group of untreated mice.
"By mimicking the mussel's ability to cling to objects, we created a substance that stays in place in a very dynamic environment with high flow velocities," Kastrup said.