Hobbies are not a waste of time. Jonathan Wilker, chemistry assistant at the Purdue University of Indiana and sub for passion, during his dives was fascinated by the tenacity with which mussels and other mollusks stick to surfaces and decided to study the mechanism. His passion, curiosity and tenacity allowed him to make an important discovery. The molluscs anchor their shells in rocks, boats and submerged poles by means of dozens of very thin filaments that an extendable organ called "foot" fixes to the surfaces with a tiny drop of glue.
Iron sticker. With his research team, Wilker discovered that mussels use iron to produce these adhesive masses, documenting for the first time his involvement in such a biological activity. The molluscs obtain this metal from the water filtration process with which they get the nutrients necessary for survival. The iron joins the protein mixture of gelatinous consistency which constitutes the primary structure of the glue and makes it “cementify”, transforming it into a very resistant material that guarantees a tide-proof fixing to the mussel.
Dr. Mussel. In addition to its scientific value, Wilker's discovery is also important for the uses that can be made of it. "This compound adheres to numerous surfaces and is of biological origin - explains the researcher - so it could be adequately modified in medicine to suture wounds or rebuild tissues, or in the chemical industry to make non-polluting anti-rust paints and underwater paints. ».