Caddisfly Silk: The Perfect Surgical Tape?

March 1, 2010 By: Marshall Cutchin

It’s difficult to imagine an adhesive that works on wet tissues, but that’s just scientists think they may have come across while studying the silk of caddisfly larvae. The double ribbon of adhesive secreted from the insect allows it to bond to sand grains, leaf piece or almost anything else in a typical stream.
“Silk from caddisfly larvae – known to western fly fishermen as ‘rock rollers’ – may be useful some day as a medical bioadhesive for sticking to wet tissues,” says Russell Stewart, an associate professor of bioengineering and principal author of a new study of the fly silk’s chemical and structural properties.
“I picture it as sort of a wet Band-Aid, maybe used internally in surgery – like using a piece of tape to close an incision as opposed to sutures,” he adds. “Gluing things together underwater is not easy. Have you ever tried to put a Band-Aid on in the shower? This insect has been doing this for 150 million to 200 million years.”
What sets caddisfly silk apart from that of spiders or silkworms? A process called “phosphorylation.” Read more of the fascinating University of Utah College of Engineering report on Eurekaalert.org.