Hagfish Slime Could Become Future Eco-Friendly Clothes
2013 04 05

By Anna Rothschild | The World

Scientists developing today’s high-tech products often look to nature for ideas. Velcro was inspired by the tiny barbs on plant seeds, and the shape of Japan’s bullet train was inspired by the beak of a kingfisher. Now some Canadian scientists are studying a natural material from the oceans that might inspire the clothing of the future. Anna Rothschild of our partner program NOVA reports.

At the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, a large blue building sits in the middle of campus. A room inside is filled with giant fish tanks.

Biologist Tim Winegard walks over to a tank that holds what look like eels. He dips a wooden pole in the water to fish one out.


Hagfish are not true fish. They do not have backbones.
These are hagfish, ancient snake-like creatures that live on the bottom of the ocean. Winegard places one of the animals in a bucket and lightly squeezes it.

He removes his hand from the bucket and displays a thick mass of clear mucus. “There’s a pretty impressive volume of slime there,” he says.

Hagfish produce a lot of slime. It serves as a form of defense.


Hagfish are not true fish. They are more primitive creatures that have been around for perhaps 500 million years. They don’t have jaws, so they have evolved their own way to protect themselves from predators – like sharks. In fact, some scientists recently recorded videos of sharks attacking hagfish.

When a shark tries to bite a hagfish, its mouth and gills are covered with slime. “The slime and the fibers that are within it clog the gill surface of [the shark],” says Winegard, “which causes them potentially to suffocate, but definitely to abort the attack.”

Useful Properties

It turns out that hagfish slime may have uses for people, too.

The slime is composed of thread-like fibers.

“When you stretch the fibers in water and then dry them out they take on properties that are very silk-like,” says Douglas Fudge, who heads this research project at the University of Guelph.

Hagfish fibers are incredibly thin and extremely strong, and that gave Fudge and his colleagues an idea.

For years, scientists have been looking for natural alternatives to synthetic fiber like nylon and spandex that are made from oil, which is a nonrenewable resource.

In contrast, hagfish threads are made from proteins.

“Proteins are a renewable resource because we can get organisms to make them,” says Fudge.

No one has made a spool of hagfish thread yet, but Fudge and his team see a future where hagfish slime or similar proteins could be turned into high-performance, eco-friendly clothing. The fibers might be used for stockings or breathable athletic wear or even bullet-proof vests.

[...]

Read the full article at: theworld.org







Related Articles
Sonic Fabric Recycled Neckties
Google Glass can identify people by their clothing
Clothing made out of milk?
Smart clothes offer emotional aid
1 Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth
Scientists film hagfish anti-shark slime weapon


Latest News from our Front Page

Sweden Recognizes Palestinian State; Israel Upset
2014 10 31
Sweden on Thursday became the biggest Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm. The move by Sweden’s new left-leaning government reflects growing international impatience with Israel’s nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. It also comes during increased ...
Fed-Backed Study: How to Brainwash Public into Fearing “Climate Change” Like Ebola
2014 10 31
$84K study seeks ways to make public fear "climate change and overpopulation" The National Science Foundation is funding a study to determine how to brainwash the public into fearing “climate change and overpopulation” as if they were Ebola. The NSF awarded an $84,000 grant to researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo yesterday to figure out how to make ...
Brain decoder can eavesdrop on your inner voice
2014 10 31
As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head TALKING to yourself used to be a strictly private pastime. That’s no longer the case – researchers have eavesdropped on our internal monologue for the first time. The achievement is a step towards helping people who cannot ...
6 Million Lies
2014 10 30
“If you do not specify and confront real issues, what you say will surely obscure them. If you do not alarm anyone morally, you yourself remain morally asleep. If you do not embody controversy, what you say will be an acceptance of the drift of the coming hell.” C Wright Mills. I need to share information I have discovered ...
Google’s New Computer With Human-Like Learning Abilities Will Program Itself
2014 10 30
In college, it wasn’t rare to hear a verbal battle regarding artificial intelligence erupt between my friends studying neuroscience and my friends studying computer science. One rather outrageous fellow would mention the possibility of a computer takeover, and off they went. The neuroscience-savvy would awe at the potential of such hybrid technology as the CS majors argued we have nothing to ...
More News »