How Do You Goo?

Want a glue that sticks? Just scare a slug!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

When you cut your skin open, stitches and staples have you covered. But what keeps you together when the incision is INSIDE your body?

Jianyu Li [JEEAHN-you LEE] and colleagues at McGill University found an answer from an unlikely creature: THE SLUG! Li’s goo-glue was inspired by the sticky residue left by slugs when they’re frightened.

Current glues are either too rigid or too brittle, and some are even toxic! Li’s glue needed to be STRONG enough to grab onto wet surfaces. But it also needed to STRETCH when our insides jiggle around. How did they strike this balance?

Just like the slug’s sticky slime, the glue was made by lacing together two layers of molecules. One layer was stiff to keep the glue strong. The other was flexible so it didn’t tear under stress.

Li tested this material by plugging a hole in a pig heart. Even though it was covered in blood, the glue still stuck to the heart!

Not so bad for a sticky situation!