Chinese Giant Salamander Mucus More Effective At Sealing Wounds Than Many Medical Glues

June 19, 2019

The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus), a critically endangered amphibian found in Asia that is also captive bred for consumption in China, secretes a mucus that is more effective at closing medical sutures than many medical glues, according to a study published in Advanced Functional Materials

Chinese giant salamander

J. Patrick Fischer/Wikipedia

The Chinese giant salamander is a critically endangered species but is farmed as a food source in China.

Researchers created a bioadhesive using the skin secretions of Andrias davidianus (SSAD) and found that it retained significantly stronger tissue adhesion than existing surgical tissue adhesives, and decreased skin wound healing times, while also promoting wound regeneration and the formation of new blood vessels.  

“We anticipate that the low cost, environmentally friendly production, healing-promotion ability, and good biocompatibility of SSAD provide a promising and practical option for sutureless wound closure, as shown by the current research,” the researchers wrote in the study. “SSAD will likely overcome some limitations associated with currently available surgical glues and can perhaps be used to heal wounds on other delicate internal organs and tissues.”

The SSAD, which is essentially salamander goo off the amphibian’s skin,  also reduces scarring, improves elasticity and mitigates side effects that a chemical-based glues are known to cause, and Chinese have been using the salamander goo to treat burns for more than 1600 years, according to Smithsonian.com.

Dr Shrike Zhang, director of the Zhang Laboratory of Engineered Living Systems conducted the research at Harvard University. The mucus was collected and then freeze dried into a powder and reconstituted with water. Shang told New Scientist that slathering the mucus directly from a salamander onto a wound would also work. 

'I think if you happened to have a giant salamander by your side, putting the mucus right on should probably work too,' Zhang told New Scientist

Chinese Hold a Food Festival With An Endangered Species As The Main Course

The large amphibian, which can grow to five feet, has been a legally protected species in China since 1988 and there are 22 nature reserves in the country devoted to the salamander. While the wild population has declined rapidly due to poaching and the degradation of its environment, they are captive bred for consumption, but the long time it takes for them to grow has encouraged the taking of them in the wild. Chinese giant salamander meat can can fetch $100 a pound and you can't tell the difference between a wild caught and farmed specimen.

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