Lizards could help with surgical stitches

February 19, 2008 12:14:51 AM PST
The gecko is good for a lot more than selling insurance.

Unlocking the gecko's ability to walk on walls may lead to a way to replace surgical stitches-- with sticky tape.

During surgery, doctors use stitches and staples. But researchers at Harvard Medical School are interested in something else.

"There's a great need for a tape-based medical adhesive that can either augment or replace standard sutures or staples," said Jeff Karp from Harvard Medical School.

Enter this guy, a gecko with feet that let him walk up walls, even glass.

"We look at this more of a gecko inspired adhesive than a gecko mimicking adhesive," said Karp.

What's inspiring researcher Jeff Karp are the nano-sized hairs on gecko feet. In the "proceedings of the national academy of sciences," the researchers created a surgical tape by fabricating similar gecko-inspired hairs that mechanically hold tissue together. For more holding power, they had to add glue.

"We had to go beyond the mechanisms that the gecko uses to attach and add this thin layer of a bio-degradable glue to the surface," said Karp.

The lack of holding power was recently solved at U.C. Berkeley where professor Ron Fearing announced last month, that he and his researchers have duplicated the adhesive power of a gecko.

With increased weight, more micro fibers automatically cling to the surface for more holding power.

Fearing's breakthrough has not been tested in the medical field, but the research by the Harvard medical team and U.C. Berkeley, could change the way doctors perform surgeries.