Some damp things, like sweaty thighs, only want to stick together. Others, like wet organs, are far less cooperative. But now scientists have devised a clever way to make them play nice: a two-part glue inspired by slug mucus. The team reported their results in the journal Science.
Surgical adhesive has a big job. It has to be safe, and it has to be able to stick to living tissue, even when that tissue is slick and wet with blood. So far, engineers have had a hard time finding glues that meet all these criteria.
That may be because, previously, they hadn't spent enough time lying on their bellies in the backyard. Ordinary slug mucus is a marvel of chemistry and physics. It's a liquid crystal, neither liquid nor solid. It protects the slug from pathogens, helps it glide along the ground, and can give off chemical messages to other slugs nearby.
And that's just the basic package. Individual slug species also brew special slime blends to suit their own needs. One European species, the dusky arion (Arion subfuscus), copes with threats by mucus-gluing itself to a surface and simply refusing to budge. Its slime is absorbent, strong, and super-sticky. In short, it's a surgeon's dream.
Previous studies of A. subfuscus mucus found that the slime derives its power from its unusual, two-layered structure, with a tough matrix covered with positively charged proteins.
To recreate this magical goo, experts in bio-engineering teamed up with material scientists and heart surgeons. They created their own version of the slime: a rugged hydrogel matrix beneath a sticky layer of large, positively charged molecules.
The researchers put the new glue through an impressive battery of product tests, trying it out on wet and dry pig parts, including skin, cartilage, hearts, arteries, and livers. They used it in rats that had recently undergone surgery, on mice with liver hemorrhages, and on pig hearts. In each case, the glue outperformed existing medical adhesives while causing no damage to surrounding tissue.
In a statement, co-author Adam Celiz, now at Imperial College London, said the slug glue has "wide-ranging applications."
"We can make these adhesives out of biodegradable materials, so they decompose once they've served their purpose. We could even combine this technology with soft robotics to make sticky robots, or with pharmaceuticals to make a new vehicle for drug delivery."
Donald Ingber is founding director of Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, where some of the study researchers are based. He was not involved with this study, but praised the team for their ingenuity: "Nature has frequently already found elegant solutions to common problems; it's a matter of knowing where to look and recognizing a good idea when you see one."
Rotavirus—from the Latin rota, for "wheel"—is named for the wheel-like appearance of its particles.
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As you may already know, the corona in coronavirus has no relation to a certain refreshing beer often served with a slice of lime. Corōna means “crown” in Latin—and Spanish and Italian, too—and virologists chose it in 1968 to describe the group of viruses characterized by crown-like spikes that protrude from their surfaces.
So how do other viruses and diseases get their names? Based on the infographic below, created by Adam Aleksic for his website, The Etymology Nerd, there isn’t just one way. Some, like the coronavirus, are named for how they look under a microscope. The rota in rotavirus, for example, which means “wheel” in Latin, reflects the virus’s wheel-like appearance when viewed beneath an electron microscope.
Others are named after the locations where they were discovered or studied. In 1947, scientists named a newly identified mosquito-borne virus after Uganda’s Zika Forest. In 1977, Yale researchers investigating a string of pediatric arthritis cases in the town of Lyme, Connecticut, started referring to the illness as “Lyme arthritis.” Later, the name was modified to “Lyme disease” when scientists realized patients were exhibiting other symptoms, too.
Still others are characterized by the symptoms they cause. People with tetanus—from the Greek tetanos, for “tension”—usually experience muscle stiffness, and the skin of yellow fever sufferers often takes on a yellow tint due to jaundice.
Find out the origins of malaria, measles, and more below. And follow The Etymology Nerd on Instagram for more fascinating etymological explanations.
Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of Latin in this infographic.
Chef Gordon Ramsay is just one of the professionals lending their knowledge to a MasterClass course.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Although binge-watching Netflix is always a great way to kill a few hours, you might want to shake it up and do something a little more substantial with your free time. That’s where MasterClass comes in. A subscription package that features over 80 virtual courses in a wide range of subjects, MasterClass can help you explore exciting new subjects or improve your knowledge in an area you’re already familiar with. And all the classes are taught by highly recognizable experts in their fields, so you can be confident that the lessons you’re learning are solid (that Martin Scorsese probably knows a thing or two about filmmaking, after all).
The courses themselves are broken up into individual lessons that are only around 10 minutes long, so fitting them into your schedule is as easy as becoming a professional chess player (or it will be, once you’ve finished the course). MasterClass is priced at $15 a month for unlimited classes or at $90 per course, and you can sign up here.
So whether you want to become the next great young adult novelist or an expert bartender, MasterClass has something for everyone. Check out a few highlights from the course list.
Gordon Ramsay, known for his sharp demeanor and high expectations in the kitchen, is an international chef, restaurateur, and television host who’s nothing short of legendary. And in his MasterClass series, he’ll teach you to become a legend, too. This series features the softer side of Ramsay, who teaches you knife techniques, seasoning tricks, kitchen layout, and much more. And, for anyone ready to level up, he also offers Cooking II: Restaurant Recipes in the Kitchen.
If you’re ready to become an award-winning bartender—or just make a decent martini at home—look no further than this 17-lesson course with master mixologists Lynnette Marrero and Ryan Chetiyawardana. You’ll not only learn to craft the perfect cocktail, but also how to safely incorporate raw eggs into drinks, make complementary drink “seasonings,” and discover the best liquor to pair with food (who knew that whiskey and blue cheese were a match made in heaven?). A good drink has the power to bring people together, and after this course, you’ll be the go-to guru for any dinner party.
After you’re through with R.L. Stine’s class on writing for young adults, you may just become the next sultan of the Scholastic Book Fair. According to his website, Stine has written over 330 books over the course of his career, and he’s provided thrills and chills to millions of readers with his beloved Goosebumps and Fear Street series. Now, he’ll teach you some of his favorite tricks of the trade, like why you should always start with the ending (so you can focus on fooling your reader for the entire book) and how writing from personal experience makes for a more sincere scare. This masterclass will help you perfect the art of scary storytelling and overcome any fears you might have about putting your own experiences on the page.
Dr. Jane Goodall is best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and gorillas, but she’s more than just a scientist—she’s an environmental activist and conservationist who wants to ensure that animal habitats are preserved for years to come. In this course, Dr. Goodall will share some of the conservation lessons she’s learned as a scientist, identify the central problems facing our planet today, and share effective methods for creating change. As she says, one of the best ways to confront environmental issues is by “telling stories, meeting with people, listening to them, and then finding a way to reach the heart.” This course will show you how.
Garry Kasparov, a chess grandmaster and world chess champion, will help you dust off your old chessboard and learn to play the game like it’s an art form. This 29-lesson class starts with the basics and gets more complex the further you get into the course. Using the tactics he’s curated throughout his career, Kasparov will show you how to approach chess with a strategist's mindset, including the basics of openings, interference plans, and endgames. This class even features other “students” so you’re not just studying the techniques, but seeing how they play out in real time, too.
One of comedy’s greatest names—and one of film’s most beloved actors—is Steve Martin. The star of film classics such as Father of the Bride and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Martin will teach you how to find your comedic voice, develop your persona, and work a crowd so that you’ll never get booed off the stage. And he’ll share his comedic process, which involves more writing and editing than it does practicing in the mirror. This is the perfect class for anyone looking to practice their improv skills or sign up for their first open mic night.
Make your childhood dreams come true with this course from retired astronaut Chris Hadfield, who’s flown two Space Shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station during his 21 years as an astronaut. And in his course, he’ll teach you the intricacies of space exploration, from learning how rockets work to preparing your body for liftoff. Even if you're not planning on leaving the atmosphere (or your couch) anytime soon, this class teaches you what it's like to be an astronaut. And as Hadfield talks about his unique journey to the stars, there's the chance to learn plenty of life and career lessons that you can apply on Earth.
Even if your biggest adventure is going on a walk in your local park, award-winning adventure photographer Jimmy Chin (the face behind documentaries such as Free Solo and Meru) will still teach you how to turn your photographs into works of art. Chin’s class acts as part photography course and part adventure guide, teaching you every step from choosing the right location to editing the final product. You’ll learn how to plan shoots, pack the right gear, and even find clients if you want to go professional. Whether you want to make photography a career or just take the perfect photo of your dog at golden hour, this masterclass will get you feeling comfortable behind the camera and bring some more adventure into your everyday life.
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