Biomaterial: Hagfish Slime


Hagfish slime is formed when seawater interacts with two different ingredients secreted by slime glands: mucin vesicles, which rapidly swell and burst in seawater, forming a gloopy net of mucus strands, and threads that are rich in a type of fiber called an intermediate filament (IF). They’re arranged in yarn-like bundles called skeins which consist of around 15 to 20 conical layers of loops. As GTCs mature, the threads gradually increase in size, but they are organized in such a way that they can rapidly uncoil without tangling. When the skeins come into contact with seawater, the protein glue holding them together dissolves, causing them to unravel and release the elastic energy stored. This transforms a mere teaspoon of slime into a beaker-full of the stuff in just a few seconds.

hagfish slime

One startup company for example, Bethnic 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 could be used in everything from protective clothing to food packaging, bungee cords to bandages. That’s because hagfish slime threads have some impressive properties; they might be 100 times thinner than human hair, but they’re 10 times stronger than nylon.

Published by: Mona Abada


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One Response to “Biomaterial: Hagfish Slime”
  1. momahony2014 says:

    This research is happening pretty much down the road from us in Guelph. Do you know the name of the people doing the research? We could see if they might like to come in and do a talk.

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