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Elmira/Corning

Substance found in slugs could replace the use of stitches

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Substance found in slugs could replace the use of stitches
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Stitches can be painful and unsightly, but a new discovery may mean the end of using stitches to seal your wounds. As YNN's Tamara Lindstrom reports, researchers have found a new substance to help you heal faster.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- For Biologist Andrew Smith, a breakthrough came in his own backyard.

"I found this slug and instantly knew the material was incredible," explained Smith.

A Dusky slug has a very specific defense: dumping glue on its predators.

"I put my fingers together and they were sticking together. I could pull them apart, but it took a lot of force to pull them apart. It's incredibly sticky. And then I tried to wash it off and I couldn't wash it off," remembered Smith.

That's when the Ithaca College professor knew he had something special. It is a substance that has the potential to replace an archaic medical practice.

"Stitches tear, they leak. It takes awhile to do that. Nobody likes getting stitches. But if you could have an open wound and just slide some glue into that, seal it shut and have it seal so that it doesn't leak, and it would be a perfect seamless thing so it wouldn't scar," explained Smith. "If we could mimic the properties that the slug glue has, I think it would make a really good sealant."

The glue is different from the slime that coats the slug's body. Unlike most adhesives, it is a waterproof gel that can stretch to twenty times its original size before breaking.

"This is mostly water. So imagine at the molecular level, like a noodle soup. And there are a lot of animals, slugs and snails, that can take this slippery material and turn it into extremely sticky material. Sticky, and also very tough," said Smith.

It is tough enough to fill in large wounds, and can even be used internally. Now, it's up to Smith and his team to figure out how to produce a synthetic version.

"What we are doing right now, is trying to figure out how does that glue work, which we've actually made a great deal of progress on. Then with a goal of designing a glue that would be used as a medical adhesive," explained Smith.

Until then, he doesn't recommend sticking a slug on a gaping wound.

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