Tree frogs’ feet may hold some very sticky prom­ise

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

Long ne­glected in fa­vor of legs, frogs’ feet are get­ting fresh at­ten­tion for their ad­he­sive prop­er­ties that could some­day have med­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions.

Tree frogs, such as the tiny White’s tree frog, have sticky pads on their feet that they use to grab onto tree branches and leaves and other sur­faces in their na­tive habi­tat. Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that these feet pads have the abil­ity to re­pel dirt as well. Now, they are study­ing the de­sign of the frogs’ feet with the hopes of ap­ply­ing the tech­nol­ogy to prod­ucts such as med­i­cal ban­dages and re­us­able ad­he­sives.

To make their feet sticky, the tree frogs se­crete mu­cus. They then can boost stick­i­ness by mov­ing their feet against a sur­face to cre­ate fric­tion, re­searcher Niall Craw­ford at the Univer­sity of Glas­gow in Scot­land found.

The de­sign of the feet them­selves is im­por­tant. Tiny hexag­o­nal pat­terns on the White tree frog’s pads help it cling to a sur­face and cre­ate fric­tion, while also mak­ing space in be­tween for the mu­cus to spread evenly. The mu­cus makes the pad sticky and car­ries away dirt.

Frogs whose feet were con­tam­i­nated with dust lost their grip dur­ing the ex­per­i­ment, but sim­ply “tak­ing a step en­ables frogs to clean their feet and re­store their ad­he­sion abil­ity,” Craw­ford said. The find­ings were pre­sented at the So­ci­ety for Ex­per­i­men­tal Bi­ol­ogy an­nual con­fer­ence in Glas­gow.

Tiny tree frogs may hold some se­crets to im­prov­ing ban­dages.

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