Surgical Adhesives from the Seas: Biomimicry to Bond Tissues

Interdisciplinary Areas: Engineering and Healthcare/Medicine/Biology

Project Description

Look to the seas and you will find creatures such as mussels, barnacles, and oysters sticking themselves to wet rocks. Man-made adhesives, by contrast, fail miserably when tasked with wet adhesion. Consequently, we rely upon painful sutures, staples, and screws to repair damage from injuries or surgical procedures. Our laboratories are working together in developing a series of new adhesives to connect tissues when surrounded by blood. We take design cues from shellfish to then create wet setting glues based upon several protein and synthetic polymer systems. In doing so, we have shown strong adhesion underwater. Cytotoxicity and in animal biocompatibility testing also look promising. The most pressing future directions to take are creating surgical adhesives and sealants for bonding soft as well as hard tissues. Applications envisioned here include orthopedic repair, dental attachment, and attachment of soft tissues. Work will include using biomimetic adhesives to bond different tissue types. Creative development of methods and adaptation of adhesives will also be part of this work. Our long-term goal is to make sutures obsolete.

Start Date

July 1, 2019

Postdoc Qualifications

*Highly motivated and independent researcher
*Excellent written and oral communication skills
*Strong publication record
*Eager to join interdisciplinary team that touches on topics in chemical engineering, chemistry, marine biology, materials science, and biomedical engineering 


Julie Liu,, Davidson School of Chemical Engineering,

Jonathan Wilker,, Department of Chemistry,
1. "A bioinspired elastin-based protein for a cytocompatible underwater adhesive"
Jane Brennan, Bridget Kilbride, Jonathan Wilker, Julie Liu
Biomaterials, 2017, Volume 124, pages 116-125.
2. "High Strength Underwater Bonding with Polymer Mimics of Mussel Adhesive Proteins"
Michael North, Chelsey A. Del Grosso, Jonathan Wilker
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2017, Volume 9, Issue 8, pages 7866-7872.
3. "Integrating Mussel Chemistry into a Bio-Based Polymer to Create Degradable Adhesives"
Courtney L. Jenkins, Heather M. Siebert, Jonathan Wilker
Macromolecules, 2017, Volume 50, Issue 2, pages 561-568.
4. "Cytocompatibility Studies of a Biomimetic Copolymer with Simplified Structure and High-strength Adhesion"
Jane Brennan, Heather Meredith, Courtney Jenkins, Jonathan Wilker, Julie Liu
Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 2016, Volume 104, Issue 4, pages 983-990