Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Guelph researchers solve part of hagfish slime mystery

04.04.2014

University of Guelph researchers have unravelled some of the inner workings of slime produced by one of nature's most bizarre creatures – hagfish.

They've learned how the super-strong and mega-long protein threads secreted by the eel-like animals are organized at the cellular level. Their research was published today in the science journal Nature Communications.

Hagfish Slime Cell Images

Fig. 2a shows a three-dimensional reconstruction of thread packing within a developing hagfish gland thread cell. Fig. 2b shows a three-dimensional reconstruction of 12 continuous loops of thread within a developing hagfish gland thread cell, revealing the pattern of thread coiling. One loop is highlighted in green. Other objects in the image are mitochondria (red) and nucleus (blue). Fig. 2c shows our three-dimensional model of thread coiling within hagfish gland thread cells based on insights gleaned from Fig. 2b.

Credit: Douglas Fudge

The slime-making process has fascinated and perplexed biologists for more than 100 years, says lead author Prof. Douglas Fudge of Guelph's Department of Integrative Biology.

Besides satisfying scientific curiosity, the discovery also provides valuable insights into the quest to produce synthetic versions of hagfish threads for commercial use.

... more about:
»Integrative »coiled »hagfish »morphology »slime »solve »synthetic

"What we are doing is biomimicry, imitating and getting inspiration from nature to help solve complex human problems," Fudge said.

"We know that hagfish slime has incredible, interesting properties -- we just don't know how it's achieved. We do know that it's a complex process, and the final product is a super fibre that is almost as strong as spider silk. We need to figure out how the cells make these fibres that are so special."

Hagfishes are an ancient group of bottom-dwelling creatures that have remained relatively unchanged for more than 300 million years. When threatened, they secrete a gelatinous slime containing mucus and tens of thousands of protein threads coiled like skeins of yarn.

The threads are incredibly strong and extremely long, and can uncoil rapidly without tangling. "It's pretty amazing, considering that one of these threads is the equivalent of a rope that is one centimetre in diameter and 1.5 kilometres long," Fudge said.

"How do you coil a rope that long in such a way that it doesn't tangle when it unravels?"

The protein threads could be spun and woven into novel biomaterials, which could provide a sustainable alternative to synthetic fibres such as Nylon, which are made from petroleum feedstocks.

Stretched enough, the protein molecules snap into different arrangements, becoming stronger and tougher, and more akin to spider dragline silks and high performance synthetics like Kevlar, Fudge said. That suggests more applications, including anything from bullet-proof vests to ropes or artificial tendons.

Scientists hope to duplicate the thread-making process, but so far, synthetic versions have proven inferior to natural slime threads.

"If we have any chance of making these things artificially, we have to know how the hagfishes produce these threads inside of their cells," Fudge said.

"We decided to figure out how the thread is organized first, because it may give us clues as to how the cells make it."

Fudge and Guelph researchers Timothy Winegard, Julia Herr and Mark Bernards teamed up with neuro-imaging specialists from universities in California and Michigan. They examined the pattern of slime thread coiling within developing cells using light and electron microscopy and 3D imaging and modelling.

"For the first time, we had the technology to study the morphology and structure of the threads in the cells," Fudge said.

They found that the 15-centimetre-long protein threads are arranged in "skeins" of 15 to 20 conical layers of loops.

Changes in nuclear morphology, size and position explain how the threads are coiled in cells, and the threads change in length and width as cells mature. The next step is to unravel the biochemical and biophysical mechanism behind those changes. "This study provided information about how the thread coils and fills the cells as it grows," Fudge said.

"And these results led us to some very strong clues about how the threads are actually made, and figuring that out is the ultimate goal."

Douglas Fudge | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uoguelph.ca

Further reports about: Integrative coiled hagfish morphology slime solve synthetic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biophysicists reveal how optogenetic tool works
29.05.2020 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

nachricht Mapping immune cells in brain tumors
29.05.2020 | University of Zurich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

Im Focus: Rolling into the deep

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Black nitrogen: Bayreuth researchers discover new high-pressure material and solve a puzzle of the periodic table

29.05.2020 | Materials Sciences

Argonne researchers create active material out of microscopic spinning particles

29.05.2020 | Materials Sciences

Smart windows that self-illuminate on rainy days

29.05.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>