A team of U.S. Navy scientists and engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) have successfully recreated a natural material used for marine wildlife defense to assist military personnel.
Biochemist Dr. Josh Kogot and Materials Engineer Dr. Ryan Kincer have produced a synthetic component of hagfish slime from the alpha and gamma proteins of the Pacific hagfish.
The Pacific hagfish, also known as slime eels, are bottom-dwelling scavengers which live on the ocean floor. The hagfish can secrete slime to protect themselves by obstructing the gills of predators which come into contact with the slime.
According to Kincer, hagfish slime consists of two protein-based components — a thread and a mucin.
“The coiled up thread behaves like a spring and quickly unravels upon contact with water due to stored energy,” said Kincer. “The mucin binds to water and constrains the flow between the micro channels created by the thread dispersion. The interaction between the thread, mucin, and seawater creates a three-dimensional, viscoelastic network. Over time, the thread begins to collapse on itself, causing the slime to slowly dissipate. Studies have shown the hagfish secretion can expand up to 10,000 times its initial volume.”
The hagfish slime thread has been compared to spider silk. Both are natural, renewable materials which could one day replace synthetic products derived from petroleum-based precursors. Kogot said the slime thread has comparable mechanical properties to Kevlar, a synthetic fiber used as a reinforcing agent for rubber products and protective gear.
During synthetic recreation, alpha and gamma proteins were produced in an Escherichia coli bacteria, or E.coli, where each protein was recovered from the bacteria after a series of isolation and purification steps. The alpha and gamma proteins were later combined together and rapidly assembled in a crosslinking solution. A sample of natural and synthetic hagfish threads were compared using a scanning electron microscope to visually confirm the production of the synthetic threads.
The intended use of the synthetic slime is to provide non-lethal and non-kinetic defense to the fleet.
“The synthetic hagfish slime may be used for ballistics protection, firefighting, anti-fouling, diver protection, or anti-shark spray,” said Kogot. “The possibilities are endless. Our goal is to produce a substance that can act as non-lethal and non-kinetic defense to protect the warfighter.”
Kincer said the addition of using a material such as the slime will be valuable to the U.S. Navy.
“Researchers have called the hagfish slime one of the most unique biomaterials known,” said Kincer. “For the U.S. Navy to have its hands on it or a material that acts similar would be beneficial. From a tactical standpoint, it would be interesting to have a material that can change the properties of the water at dilute concentrations in a matter of seconds.”
The effort to create new synthetic means to behave like the natural hagfish slime is supported by Navy Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) funding and the Office of Naval Research Code 32, ocean battlespace sensing department. The team is researching ways to increase the slime’s surface attachment capability, potential delivery systems, and enhanced stability in various environments. From there, Kogot and Kincer will continue to look for innovative applications and explore different variations and properties of the material.
They are currently working to increase the slime protein scale and improve protein assembly.
Receive an email update when we add a new BIOMIMICRY article.
The Latest on: Hagfish slime
via Google News
The Latest on: Hagfish slime
- Deep-sea creatures: Pacific footballfish and other unusual fishy findson May 13, 2021 at 2:07 am
A rare and spooky looking Pacific footballfish has been found washed up on a beach in California. So, we thought we'd check out some other weird and wonderful creatures of the deep!
- Navy Develops Biodegradable 3D-Printing Formulation for Disposable Oceanic Sensorson May 9, 2021 at 5:00 pm
By incorporating biological materials, like the synthetic hagfish slime the same lab invented, the process of biodegradation of the carrier vehicle structure is accomplished by microorganisms or ...
- Meet the ‘rope broker’ who cleans up the Cape’s seafloor and supplies artists with the salvaged goodson April 29, 2021 at 11:03 am
Ludwig, who over the years has built a following as a “rope broker” by lobstermen and artists alike, will go to most any length to find new uses for rope, nets, buoys, lobster traps ...
- october 1906on April 26, 2021 at 5:00 pm
“Is it completely covered in slime? Then, it’s a hagfish.” Hagfish produce slime the way humans produce opinions—readily, swiftly, defensively, and prodigiously. They slime when attacked ...
- Hagfishes: how much slime can a slime eel make?on October 21, 2020 at 4:02 am
Their way around this is that they don't hold the slime in their bodies in its final form. Hagfish slime has three main components: seawater, mucins and slime threads. Data shows that hagfish slime is ...
- Hagfish Slime: Biomaterial Of The Future?on August 13, 2020 at 9:54 am
One startup company for example, Benthic Labs, turned to the Hagfish with the ultimate goal of developing a biodegradable polymer made out of components of the slime itself. They think the slime ...
- 100 million-year-old fossilised fish slime shakes up our family treeon January 31, 2019 at 3:54 pm
Hagfish have a unique defense mechanism in the wild to ward off ocean predators. When being hunted in the sea, they can instantly turn the water around them into a cloud of slime, clogging the gills ...
- Oregon Eel Cleanup: 'It’s Not Going To Be A Very Pleasant Smell'on July 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm
As of Friday morning, the hagfish — commonly known as slime eels — were moved to the side of the highway. Crews used bulldozers to shovel them out of the way of drivers, and the Depoe Bay Fire ...
- The Hagfish Is the Slimy Sea Creature of Your Nightmareson July 8, 2017 at 10:04 am
Save 84% off the newsstand price! Constantine's death would drive a crack through the Roman Empire, splitting it into West and East. Over the next several hundred years, parts of it would even ...
via Bing News