Nature’s Blueprint

Exploring nature can be a great source of inspiration for creating new scientific innovations. Some biotech companies are using biomimicry, which involves imitating nature, to develop unique and fascinating products. This approach involves studying how nature works and applying its proven strategies to function in a way that sustains and helps regenerate the environment. Biomimicry isn’t just a method; it’s a philosophy that shapes how we see the world and our connections within it.

It’s important to recognise that this isn’t a completely new idea. The term “biomimicry” gained popularity through biologist Janine Benyus’s 1997 book. Still, it could be viewed as a way of packaging ideas from Indigenous communities into a more accepted academic practice for the Western world without giving due credit to their knowledge and associations. 

Jellyfish Collagen

Jellagan, a company based in Wales that focuses on marine biotechnology, is considering jellyfish as a potential source for a new type of collagen. This biomaterial could revolutionise various industries. 

The concept originated from Andrew Mearns Spragg, one of the co-founders of Jellagen, during his younger years. While surfing along the East coast of Scotland, he encountered a large number of Jellyfish. Rather than seeing them as a mere inconvenience caused by human activity, Mearns Spragg recognised their potential as a valuable resource for the future. 

Collagen, the most prevalent protein in mammals and a crucial element in various tissues serves multiple purposes in the medical, cosmetic and pharmaceutical sectors. These industries derive collagen primarily from mammals like cows, pigs and sheep. however, there are concerns associated with mammalian collagen, including the risk of disease transmission. This has promoted the quest for a safer alternative source of collagen. 

In early 2021, Jellagen introduced a collagen material for cultivating cells in research. The company is exploring various applications of its collagen in therapeutic and medical devices, such as wound repair, regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering. This serves as a compelling example of how biomimicry enables us to discover solutions in nature, even in unexpected places.

Wooden Bones

GreenBone, an Italian startup, aims to create an innovative bone graft scaffold for patients with bone defects, often resulting from trauma, infection, cancer, or unhealed fractures. Facing limited options for defects spanning more than a few centimetres, GreenBone turned to nature, identifying rattan—a plant similar to bamboo—as an ideal starting material for a scaffold promoting bone regeneration.

The rattan wood is shaped according to the bone defect’s dimensions, undergoing a chemical process to preserve its structure while removing biological components. The result is a white calcium phosphate scaffold with an internal porous architecture mimicking bone structure. Upon insertion into the defect site, the patient’s bone cells migrate into the scaffold, eventually forming new bone tissue.

Worm Glue

Paris-based Tissium (formerly Gecko Biomedical) developed a sealant for vascular surgery based on the adhesive secretions of the Californian sandcastle worm.

Sealing internal wounds is challenging, as conventional surgical glues may struggle to stay in place due to body movement and can be less effective when reacting with surrounding moisture. Tissium’s sealant, however, is designed to be viscous and hydrophobic, ensuring better adherence and resistance to moisture. After application over the wound, a UV light is used to solidify the glue within seconds.

Inspired by the Californian sandcastle worm, known for secreting an adhesive to build protective tubes with sand particles, Tissium’s sealant replicates this perfected adhesive secretion that evolved over millions of years. It sets quickly and works effectively in wet environments, making it an ideal design for surgical glue.

Evolution has spread tried-and-true designs throughout the biosphere. From flourishing jellyfish to sturdy wooden bones and sea worms, sources of inspiration are plentiful. In the domain of biomimicry, our boundaries are defined solely by our curiosity about the natural world.

Leave a Reply