So when I read this article from the New York Times I immediately thought of my seafaring ancestors. What would they have thought about making a "glue" that could mend human bones, organs, and skin out of one of the all time banes of their existence:
Freaking barnacles. A careening of a ship's hull was necessary at least once and sometimes two or three times a year (depending on the warmth of the water your ship frequented) to get the nasty, hellish things off. The process was arduous, requiring a secure port and plenty of men to haul the ship up at least partially on shore, crank her on her side and set to the extremely gruesome business of extracting the barnacles. Anyone who has seen the "Buoy Cleaner" episode of Dirty Jobs, where Mike Rowe joins the Coast Guard in San Francisco Bay to scrape buoys, knows where I'm coming from. As Mike called them, dislodged barnacles are like "an omelet form hell". And you were using power tools on metal, Mike. Imagine hand scraping a wooden hull. Horrifying.
But now, here are researchers at more than one University in the U.S. formulating an effective epoxy to use inside the human body. That warm, saline environment that fits inside our skins is so like the ocean we once climbed out of that it only makes sense to look back to the creatures of the sea for more than inspiration. But barnacles? Must we?
Admittedly, the article focuses most closely on Dr. Russell J. Stewart's work with sandcastle worms (shown at the header) and what he is doing is amazing. It is noted, however, that initial research done by Dr. J. Herbert Waite at U.C. Santa Barbara concentrated on mussels and barnacles. Remind me to stay out of Dr. Waite's mad science lab.
I won't go into the details of the chemistry involved but the article is fascinating if for no other reason than it gives us a glimpse into the potential medicine of the future. And the interesting capacities of those little, clinging beasties that still drive seamen crazy.
All that said, I believe I will stick with old fashioned stitches. I'll have the anesthesia first, though, Doc. Trust me, things will go a lot more smoothly that way.