Your Next Medical Implant Could Be Made By a Crustacean

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Ever dreamt of a material that was stronger than steel and stickier than super glue? Err, neither had we. But it's here, and it might end up inside you real soon.

A team of scientists from the University of Oxford have found a tiny little marine crustacean that produces a material with the adhesive characteristics of barnacle glue and the structural properties of spider-silk fibres, report The Economist. If you're into Latin and really care, it's called Crassicorophium bonellii, and it oozes this stuff in the same way that a spider spins its silk.

Big deal, huh? Well, think for a minute. Spider silk has the same tensile strength as high-grade steel, but is only one fifth the weight. Barnacle glue is probably the strongest naturally-occurring adhesive known to man, and is completely unaffected by water. Combined, that's a pretty amazing set of qualities.

Which is why next time you have a medical procedure that involves an implant — say a hip or knee replacement — it might well be made out of a material that dribbled out of this crustacean.

It's not just going to be useful for medical implants, though. If they can work out how the stuff is made and synthesise it in the lab, it could be used to make anything from car panels to crockery. Personally, I love the idea of eating lobster off a plate made by crustacean. [The Economist]

Image credit: Katrin Kronenberger