Glue Made of Mussel Slime Could Prevent Scarring

The glue, infused with a version of the protein decorin, healed wounds in rats, giving them skin with hair follicles and oil glands instead of scar tissue

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There are dozens of products on the market to help people cover up or lessen the sight of scars, including laser treatments, creams and gels. The problem is, none of them really do the trick. The best solution is to not get a scar in the first place. But if that answers falls into the easier said then done camp, Alice Klein at New Scientist reports that researchers have created a new “glue” from the slime made by mussels that helps wounds heal with minimal scarring.

Bob Yirka at reports that scars form because skin doesn’t do a very good job at weaving collagen fibers into a smooth surface. Instead, the skin makes bunches, resulting in the uneven bumpy texture of a scar. In previous research, investigators found that a protein produced by skin called decorin can organize collagen and help reduce scarring, but it’s difficult to create in the lab.

So researchers at the Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea found a way to synthesize a simplified version of decorin. They then combined it with a collagen-binding molecule and the sticky material secreted by mussels, creating a glue they could slather into a wound.

The researchers developed the mussel-glue as an alternative sutures or surgical staples in 2015 and simply added the scar-preventing ingredients for the new study.

Klein reports that the researchers tested the substance on rats, each of which had an 8-millimeter-wide wound. After 11 days, the wounds on the rats treated with the mussel gloop were 99 percent closed. By day 28, the test group's wounds were healed with almost no visible scarring, while a control group had large purple scars. The research appears in the journal Biomaterials.

Analysis showed that the healed skin had returned to its original collagen weave, and even developed oil glands, hair follicles and blood vessels, which are not present in scar tissue.

While the technique is promising, there’s a chance it might not work in humans. “Rats have loose skin, whereas we have tight skin, and they tend to heal better and have less scarring than we do,” Allison Cowin, who researches wound healing at the University of South Australia and wasn’t involved in the study, tells Klein.

The next step is to test the scar-glue on pigs, which have skin much more similar to humans, reports Yirka. Which is kind of scarring information on its own.

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