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Health & Medicine

Spider Glue May Help Make Better Bandages

Virginia Tech

Spiders get their ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ every Halloween as one of the scary symbols of the holiday, but there’s nothing to be frightened of in this report. 

Bio-mimicry is when scientists take ideas from nature to create sustainable products.  So for example, if something works for spiders, why can’t it work for us?  That’s the idea behind Virginia Tech Biology Professor, Brent Opell’s work with spider webs. He studies the special glue spiders secrete onto the webs they weave, the better to catch their prey -- the kind that produce those classic Halloween webs of concentric circles, called orb webs.

“The orb web has to do three things. It has to intercept the prey, so it’s got to get an insect striking it and then it’s got to absorb the force that’s generated when that insect strikes the web so it doesn’t wreck the web, and then has to hold the insect long enough for a spider to locate the insect and run to it and begin to subdue it.”

Opell and his team studied the glue of local spiders –some that hunt in broad daylight, and others that operate in the dark. And they found something unique in the glue made by the daytimers. It’s more resistant to the damaging effects of sunlight and better able to withstand the elements. 

“Our work is trying to provide a better perspective on how these adhesives particularly adhesives that do well when they’re wet, which is kind of the opposite of what most adhesives do.”

Opell says understanding of the chemistry of spider glue could lead to development of better and more environmentally friendly bandages.The results were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology

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