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Salamander "goo" may help wound healing

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 06/06/2019 Alexandra Thompson Senior Health Reporter For Mailonline

A 'goo' given off by salamanders could revolutionise wound healing by replacing existing surgical glues.

A study found the skin secretions of Chinese giant salamanders, the world's largest and longest-living amphibian, enables injured tissues to 'stick' together better than an existing 'natural' adhesive.

The animals' mucus also improves skin elasticity, reduces scarring and eases side effects more than a 'chemical' glue that is currently used to repair wounds. 

Salamanders may one day inspire a 'completely degradable' and 'renewable' bio-adhesive, the researchers said. 

a close up of a fish on a rock: Chinese giant salamanders (pictured, stock) secrete a protein-rich mucus from their skin when injured. When tested both in the laboratory and on live animals, this goo 'stuck' tissue together better than an existing 'natural' adhesive. And it was less 'cytotoxic' than a 'chemical' glue © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Chinese giant salamanders (pictured, stock) secrete a protein-rich mucus from their skin when injured. When tested both in the laboratory and on live animals, this goo 'stuck' tissue together better than an existing 'natural' adhesive. And it was less 'cytotoxic' than a 'chemical' glue

The research was carried out by Harvard and led by Dr Shrike Zhang, director of the Zhang Laboratory of Engineered Living Systems. 

Existing surgical glues are insufficiently sticky to meet the 'desired demand for clinical operations', the researchers wrote in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. 

And some people are allergic to these adhesives, which also slow wound healing, leaving them unsuitable for diabetics. 

High levels of blood glucose caused by diabetes can damage nerves over time, leading to poor circulation. This makes it harder for blood to reach and repair wounds. 

When giant salamanders are injured, they secrete a protein-rich mucus from their skin.

To test whether this could act as a surgical glue, the researchers gently scratched the backs of the species Andrias davidianus. 

They then collected the mucus, which was freeze dried into a powder and later rehydrated with water. 

'I think if you happened to have a giant salamander by your side, putting the mucus right on should probably work too,' Dr Zhang said, New Scientist reported.

Andrias davidianus are critically endangered in the wild, however, millions grow on commercial farms. 

When the scientists applied the goo to injured pig skin in the laboratory, they found it was a much stronger adhesive and just as flexible as the 'natural' glue fibrin.

Fibrin is made up of substances that cause blood to clot. 

The salamander secretions were slightly weaker than the chemical adhesive cyanoacrylate, however, this has been linked to skin irritation and flu-like symptoms.

When the goo was tested on the wounds of live rats, the researchers found it left almost no scars and allowed the rodents' hair to quickly regrow. 

The secretions also did not cause any worrying inflammation. 

The salamander-inspired glue was 'completely degradable and easily produced from a renewable source', the researchers wrote. 

'You don’t have to kill any animals, you just once in a while very gently scratch their skins to harvest the mucus,' Dr Zhang said.

'It’s very sustainable and you can obtain this adhesive for a long time.' 

The goo therefore has potential for a 'broad range of medical applications', the researchers added. 

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