A gel similar to the amino acid that enables mussels to resist the power of churning water can be painted onto the walls of blood vessels and stay put, forming a protective barrier with potentially life-saving benefits.
Mussels have a knack for clinging to rocks, piers and boat hulls and now have inspired a gel that
can withstand the flow of blood through arteries and veins.
The gel's "sheer strength" could shore up weakened vessel walls at risk of rupturing – much like the way putty can fill in dents in a wall. By forming a stable barrier between blood and the vessel walls, the gel could also prevent the inflammation that typically occurs when a stent is inserted to widen a narrowed artery or vein; that inflammation often counteracts the opening of the vessel that the stent was intended to achieve.
The widest potential application would be preventing the rupture of blood vessel plaque. When a plaque ruptures, the resulting clot can block blood flow to the heart (triggering a heart attack) or the brain (triggering a stroke). Mice treated with a combination of the gel and an anti-inflammatory steroid had more stable plaque than a control group of untreated mice.
"By mimicking the mussel's ability to cling to objects, we created a substance that stays in place in a very dynamic environment with high flow velocities," says Christian Kastrup, assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia.
Published in PNAS.