The secret behind Mussels’ quick-release interface

News Excerpt:

A new study finds that Mussels can create quick-release interfaces by way of a neurochemically-mediated junction, where billions of motile cilia hold fast to interlinked biopolymer sheets.

Key highlights of the study:

  • It sheds light on the dynamic interaction between non-living materials and living tissues that can be achieved in implanted medical devices and detachable biosensors.
  • The ability to produce stable and strong connections between them while also being easily removable on demand, is crucial for a wide range of advanced biomaterial applications.
  • Engineering such biointerfaces has proven difficult, mainly due to the significant differences in mechanical properties between soft biotic tissues and abiotic materials.
  • Investigation: Taking inspiration from an example of a strong biointerface in nature, researchers investigated the connections between the Byssus Stem root and the foot of Mytilus Mussels.
    • A Byssus is a bundle of non-living filaments that Mussels use to anchor themselves. 
    • The stem root of the Byssus is connected to the living tissue of the Mussel foot. 
    • The high surface contact between the cilia on the foot tissue and the lamellar Byssus stem root provides a way to counteract the mechanical mismatch between the two surfaces.
    • The cilial movement is influenced by neurotransmitters, suggesting that dopamine and serotonin controls the mechanical interaction between the living and non-living tissues.

About Mussels:

  • Mussels belong to the marine family Mytilidae and the freshwater family Unionidae
  • Worldwide in distribution, they are most common in cool seas. 
    • Freshwater mussels include about 1,000 known species inhabiting most of the world's streams, lakes, and ponds.
    • Marine mussels are usually wedge-shaped or pear-shaped and range in size from about 5 to 15 centimeters.
  • The shells of many species are dark blue or dark greenish brown on the outside; on the inside, they are often pearly.
  • Mussels are often used as indicators of water quality and have been shown to reflect the level of contamination they are exposed to in the water column.