Innovators develop reparative blood vessel gel with mussels on the mind

What do mussels and blood vessels have in common? Thanks to innovators from the University of British Columbia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), bivalvia molluscas and the tireless taxis of the circulatory system share a whole lot more than they used to.

It was an idea that stuck for co-inventor Christian Kastrup — assistant professor at MIT and member of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Michael Smith Laboratories — and his fellow framers: The same gelatinous component which affords mussels their extraordinary clinging ability could transpire to human blood vessels and form a protective barrier for blood flow.

"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," explained Kastrup in a news release.

The resulting gel established by Kastrup and company can be painted onto the walls of blood vessels and remain there for extended periods of time. And just as mussels can resist the constant ebb and flow of the ocean, the vessel gel can easily endure the rapid flow of blood through arteries and veins.

Furthermore, due to its heightened level of formidability and its particularly malleable nature, the gel can also serve as a reparative agent — as wall plaster can fill and essentially patch up holes and minor damages in a structure, so acts the gel when faced with ruptured blood vessels, Kastrup noted. By erecting a barricade between the blood and vessel wall, the goop is also said to prevent inflammation from stent insertion into a narrow artery or vein.

The gel’s major applicatory strength was described as such: “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.”

A preliminary product blueprint can be found in the latest issue of the virtual journal PNAS Early Edition.

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