Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nature's Secrets

I find it very interesting how we continuously find such unique and useful remedies in nature that we have not already discovered in the laboratory.
The hagfish, which is a marine craniate, lives in deep water on the ocean floor. When captured in the jaws of a gill-breathing predator it releases a fibrous slime which when combined with water, turns into a thick and sticky gel.
It has recently been discovered that this amazing slime is very special because it contains thread-like fibers which are similar to the silk which spiders make. It is remarkably strong and has a tensile strength similar to that of high-grade steel. It is thought to have future uses in medical field, treating burn victims, and possibly even people with skin cancer.
Another one of the uses found for the slime produced by the hagfish is as a substitute for eggs. The slime is a sugar and protein solution that coagulates when it's secreted into water, forming a slime that is similar in texture and chemical composition to egg whites. This was done by research students in Bamfield, and they discovered that because of the slime’s colligative nature, it can be used as a substitute for eggs in baking. (See the recipe for Hagfish scones below!)
I find it fascinating how hard we work to synthesize artificial products, when we are often surrounded by much superior products. It demonstrates the diversity and awesomeness of natures. I am curious and excited to see the secrets nature is still hiding from us.



Dominic B. said...

Biomimicry is an old idea but current technologies make us more aware of them...that's a paradox
Here is a website devoted to biomimicry