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English ivy has the ability to latch on so tight to trees and buildings that the plant can withstand the winds of hurricanes and tornadoes. Researchers from The Ohio State University pinpointed the spherical particles within English ivy’s adhesive and identified the primary protein within them.

“By understanding the proteins that give rise to ivy’s strength, we can give rise to approaches to engineer new bio-inspired adhesives for medical and industry products,” said Mingjun Zhang, the biomedical engineering professor who led the work.

After looking at the ivy’s glue with a powerful atomic-force microscope, the researchers identified a previously unknown element in its adhesive: arabinogalactan proteins. The scientists discovered that the driving force behind the curing of the glue was a calcium-mediated interaction; proteins connected with pectin in the gelatinous liquid oozing from the ivy.

The team used the ivy's secreted nanoparticles to reconstruct a simple glue mimicking the adhesive.

Zhang, a member of Ohio State’s Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute, is particularly interested in bioadhesives that could aid in wound healing after injury or surgeries.

“It’s really a nature-made amazing mechanism for high-strength adhesion,” he said.

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