Frog Mucus Research Is Sticky Business At OSU

Nov 26, 2018

The next generation of high-tech adhesives may get a jump-start from the science behind sticky frog tongues. New research led by Oregon State University’s College of Engineering finds the chemical makeup of frog mucus could guide design for glues used in mechanics and medicine.

Joe Baio is an assistant professor of bioengineering at OSU and co-author of the study. He’s also become quite the frog mucus enthusiast.

Horned frog snatches its prey at the Functional Morphology and Biomechanics lab, University of Kiel in Germany.
Credit University of Kiel

“Yeah, so what we did was… basically stuck a clean glass slide, like a microscope slide and put a fly right behind the slide,” Baio says. “And then convinced the frog to strike the slide and leave a tongue print, a mucus print on the surface.”

Turns out frog tongue mucus is a pressure-sensitive adhesive.

In the amphibian’s mouth, it’s in a sort of “off state” but when the tongue strikes at prey (like a tasty cricket) and then retracts—the force causes a chemical structure change and the mucus becomes very sticky.

Through chemical analysis, Baio’s team proved for the first time, the structural state of frog mucus while it was attached to a surface. That biochemistry may now be reproduced for medical applications-- like gluing tissues together in surgery. Baio says anywhere adhesives are needed, his research could help. All thanks to a frog.

Findings were published Monday, November 26, 2018, in the journal Biointerfaces.