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Squid Teeth and Spider Silk Heal Your Future Body


To heal and improve the human body, future doctors may have to infuse you with a little squid biology. But set aside your fears of tentacle-wagging mutants, because the issue boils down to biomimetic simplicity.

The field of biomimicry makes a very modest proposal: Why should human engineers bust their humps on design problems if the answers already exist in nature? Why spend 10 years reinventing the perfect wing when nature has a design honed by the eon-spanning rigors of evolution?

Indeed, on a purely material level, nature taunts us with some truly sensational designs. Spider silk, for instance, offers an exceptional blend of durability and malleability that scientists have been attempting to harness for decades.

Since spiders themselves craft structures from these protein fibers, a little pilfered arachnid tech is a no-brainer. But squid teeth? Yes, the "suckerin" proteins that make up those little rings of sucker teeth offer a level of flexibility and resiliency ideal for biomedical applications such as artificial ligaments and bone growth scaffolding. And since the material is thermoplastic, it's easily heated and cooled to take any desired form.

Researchers from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University continue to uncover the secrets of this cephalopod wonder material, identifying key suckerin proteins and mapping the genetic code. So don't be surprised if, one day, your injured ankle becomes whole again thanks to the design contributions of a soft-bodied, ink-spurting sea creature.