Over millions of years, evolution had sufficient time to develop adhesives and nanostructures that work even under the toughest and most unpredictable conditions. Nature provides us with many examples of organisms which achieve seemingly impossible tasks – an insect that can walk upside down on wet, dirty or moving surfaces, a worm that shoots sticky threads over long-distances for capturing prey, or a salamander defending itself against an attacking snake by sealing its mouth within seconds.
Within a new EU networking project, researchers with diverse scientific backgrounds aim to understand these and other bioadhesion phenomena under lab conditions and translate their results into new biomimetic adhesives for useful applications, e.g. wound healing, tissue engineering, food, cosmetics, wood industry, etc. Bioadhesion is also of interest in healthcare.
The Faculty of Health Sciences and Faculty of Dental Surgery are collaborating in the newly-established European Network of Bioadhesion Expertise, financed by COST (Action CA15216). This project gathers researchers from Europe and all over the world in a joint effort to translate bioadhesives research into new nature-based products (e.g. medical adhesives, industrial sealants, etc). Over the next four years, the researchers aim to understand the diversity of bioadhesives and find procedures for their synthetic production and translation into bio-inspired products, while complying with the requirements of biocompability.
At the first kick-off meeting for this newly established network the two network members from the University of Malta, Dr Anna McElhatton from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Prof. Josette Camilleri from the Faculty of Dental Surgery introduced their respective research. The meeting was held at the COST Office in Brussels. Dr McElhatton and Prof. Camilleri both have an interest in oral biofilms and those associated with food and food contact materials. The research conducted involved work on oral biofilms deposited on removable medical devices and cross contamination.
The first big event for this project will be held at the Natural History Museum in Vienna (Austria) on 6 and 7 March 2017, where scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs will discuss the diversity of bioadhesive systems and their bonding principles. During the event researchers will demonstrate to members of the public various adhesive animals and plants (as well as bio-inspired robots capable of climbing walls!) while walking through the 39 exhibit halls of the Museum. Discussion with visitors will also take place to increase awareness of bio-inspired adhesives and their potential advantages compared to commercial industrial and medical adhesives available on the market today.