North Carolina residents can agree that medical advances that reduce birth defect rates are definitely a good thing, and it appears scientists are working on a promising discovery to do just that.
A type of worm that produces its own underwater adhesive when building its home is the source of the discovery. Sandcastle worms are naturally able to biosynthesize components of glue in their home-building techniques. One researcher at the University of Utah sees them as scientific inspiration to create adhesives similar to theirs that will make in utero surgeries safer and possibly block nutrient-rich blood from supplying malignant tumors in cancer patients.
The sandcastle worms are able to naturally secrete polyelectrolyte glue components that are highly charged in certain cells that combine with oppositely charged components. A biomedical sealants specialist from Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital stated, "It's a classic example of borrowing successfully from nature. [S]andcastle worms achieve underwater adhesion and . . . these discoveries . . . may find many practical solutions in medicine."
Neonatal obstetrical surgeons who examine and perform surgery on developing fetuses are in danger of causing ruptures of the amniotic membranes that can cause preterm delivery.
Medical adhesives currently in use can swell, jeopardizing the stability of the fragile amniotic membranes. An English researcher at Newcastle University who is an expert on adhesives produced by barnacles says that some medical adhesives commonly in use today "are ineffective in the flexible, moist, and biochemically active conditions of the human body or are acutely cyotoxic."
While these developments are certainly encouraging, it's a sad fact that birth defects continue to occur. While some are unavoidable, others are attributable to obstetrical negligence and other preventable factors that may require litigation in order for financial remuneration to be given.
Source: Chemical & Engineering News, "Worm Glue Can Seal Tissues" Stu Borman, Aug. 18, 2014