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CWRU-led scientists build material that mimics squid beak
Date:4/3/2013

Researchers led by scientists at Case Western Reserve University have turned to an unlikely model to make medical devices safer and more comfortablea squid's beak.

Many medical implants require hard materials that have to connect to or pass through soft body tissue. This mechanical mismatch leads to problems such as skin breakdown at abdominal feeding tubes in stroke patients and where wires pass through the chest to power assistive heart pumps. Enter the squid.

The tip of a squid's beak is harder than human teeth, but the base is as soft as the animal's Jello-like body. In order to connect these two mechanically dissimilar parts of the squid a major part of the beak has a mechanical gradient that acts as a shock absorber so the animal can bite a fish with bone-crushing force yet suffer no wear and tear on its fleshy mouth.

Nature's technology could make a range of medical devices more comfortable and safer for patients, from glucose sensors for diabetics to prosthetic arms and legs that attach to amputees' bones, the researchers say. Their work is published today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"We're mimicking the architecture and the water-enhanced properties of the squid to generate these materials," said Stuart J. Rowan, the Kent H. Smith professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve, and senior author.

Rowan worked with PhD student Justin D. Fox and assistant professor of biomedical engineering Jeffrey R. Capadona at CWRU, and Paul D. Marasco, who, like Capadona, is a principal investigator at the Advanced Platform Technology Center at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Other researchers have shown the structure of the beak is a nanocomposite comprised of a network of chitin fibers embedded within increasingly cross-linked structural proteins from mouth to tip. The gradient is present when the beak material
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Contact: Kevin Mayhood
kevin.mayhood@case.edu
216-368-4442
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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