Listening to Oysters

Two researchers from the Technion will attend the first conference of the European Network of Bioadhesion Expertise.  The goal is to explore methods of adhesion in natural systems and develop innovative adhesive materials suitable for medical use inspired by these methods

Despite the obvious differences between algae, geckos and glowworms, these creatures have a common denominator that has a major effect on their ability to survive: the use of strong and particularly effective adhesion methods that have evolved during millions of years of evolution.

Algae are capable of holding onto rocks with strength that overcomes the enormous pressure exerted on it by the waves, and this in a particularly challenging environment of water, wind, sun and salt; geckos walk on smooth surfaces with their backs facing the floor; and glowworms from New Zealand produce sticky filaments in order to trap their prey.

A new network of international researchers was recently established to promote scientific knowledge pertaining to the function of such biological systems and translate it to the creation of new adhesives for various applications such as wound healing, tissue engineering, food, cosmetics and drug delivery. This is the European Network of Bioadhesion Expertise (ENBA)*, which is part of the COST program and that supports cooperation in the European Union. These unique network brings together scientists, engineers and business entrepreneurs who will spend the next four years exploring methods of adhesion in various natural systems and will develop new methods for producing strong and safe adhesive materials inspired by these methods.

The first public meeting of the network will be held at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria, on March 6-7, 2017. At the conference, work in the field will be presented and discussions will be held that will enable a direct encounter between researchers in different disciplines.

Three Israeli researchers plan to attend the opening conference: Prof. Havazelet Bianco-Peled from the Technion Department of Chemical Engineering, Prof. Alejandro Sosnik from the Technion Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Technion alumnus Meir Haber, entrepreneur and CEO of Biota Ltd – a company established in 1999 at the Technion incubator.

Prof. Havazelet Bianco-Peled specializes in the development of polymeric biomaterials for medical applications. Her scientific activity in the field of bioadhesion focuses on tissue adhesives and mucoadhesive drug delivery. Previous studies by Prof. Bianco-Peled revealed mechanisms involved in the production of adhesives by brown seaweed. In follow-on studies, her group developed man-made biomimetic adhesives that mimic the adhesion mechanism of algae. The knowledge accumulated in her lab since 2007 led to the establishment of a project that began at the Amit Institute at the Technion (www.amitechnion.com) and later evolved into the startup Sealantis.

Today, the company is engaged in applying its adhesive technology in a variety of clinical applications. The company has developing a protein-free biomimetic tissue adhesive that is absorbed by the body and absorbs fluids. This is a friendly adhesive designed for a wide range of medical interventions such preventing bowel leaks and stopping bleeding from blood vessels. Prof. Bianco-Peled’s latest studies deal with muco-adhesive drug carriers. These carriers cling tightly to the mucosa coating various organs in the body such as the nasal and mouth cavity, enabling efficient non-invasive drug delivery.

Prof. Alejandro Sosnik investigates innovative amphiphilic polymers for the development of muco-adhesive nano-carriers through self-assembly. These devices are characterized by high physical stability, making them an effective platform for transporting drugs non-invasively.

At the conference, Meir Haber will present Biota’s technology for drug delivery through the oral mucosa using adhesive films (about the size of a postage stamp). The technology, protected by a US patent, was developed by Meir Haber and two Icelandic researchers after collaboration in a European research consortium studying adhesion in algae. It is based on a polymer from algae that is processed into films containing drugs, using a unique method, and used to transport drugs through the oral mucosa into the bloodstream.

* ENBA – European Network of Bioadhesion Expertise (Action CA15216)

 

Syringe containing adhesive designed for sealing cuts in the intestine after surgery (courtesy of Sealantis)

Prof. Havazelet Bianco-Peled

Packaging of a product for sealing cuts in the intestine (courtesy of Sealantis)

Prof. Alejandro Sosnik