A frog glue is being developed by Australian researchers as an adhesive to treat hard-to-repair human knee injuries as well as a range of other medical applications.
The frogs – of the Notaden genus – live 1 metre underground in dried mud for nine months of the year, emerging only during torrential rain. On these occasions they are vulnerable to insect attacks and so secrete the glue to jam the jaws of biting insects like ants, sticking them to their skin, which they eat later.
“All species of frogs shed their skin once or twice a week, and then eat it. It’s a revolting sight,” says Mike Tyler of Adelaide University, who discovered the frog glue.
The frog glue hardens in seconds and sticks well even in the frog’s moist habitat. “We assumed the substance would be toxic, but when we found it wasn’t, it made sense to explore it as a medical adhesive,” says Tyler.
The frog glue could plug an unmet need for strong and flexible medical adhesives, researchers believe. Available synthetic glues such as cyanoacrylates – the main ingredient in Superglue – are strong, but can be toxic and brittle.