Do mussels hold a key to better medicine?
They very well might, says George Degen, a chemical engineering graduate student at UC Santa Barbara. According to Degen, the proteins secreted by the molluscs’ feet, which enable them to adhere to irregular surfaces in wet conditions, could provide clues to new ways of repairing delicate human tissues, particularly in cases where stitches are impractical or even impossible. Degen is part of a long line of faculty, student, and postdoctoral researchers who have sought to uncover the mystery of how mussels stick to wet surfaces.
Degen shared his research in a three-minute TED-style talk as part of the 2019 UC Santa Barbara Grad Slam. The annual tournament-style competition showcases the best and brightest of the campus’s young researchers. Close to 80 students accepted the challenge of condensing their work into brief, accessible presentations. Nine made it all the way to the finals, and Degen walked away with the first-place prize.