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Grand Challenges Lecture Series Welcomes Phillip Messersmith

Phillip Messersmith, professor of biomedical engineering, will speak on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. in the Hughes Auditorium of the Lurie Medical Research Center as part of the Grand Challenges in Medicine and Engineering Lecture Series.

Messersmith will give a talk titled, "Mussel and Gecko Adhesion: Using Inspiration From Nature's Adhesive Specialists to Solve Medical Problems."

The Dean's Grand Challenges Lecture Series in Medicine and Engineering is a partnership between the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Feinberg School of Medicine. The series of six lectures brings together engineering and medical faculty members to catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration. The 2009-2010 inaugural season spans topics ranging from neurobiology and nanomechanics, to cell-based therapies for heart disease, to oncofertility and more.

Messersmith will speak about his work exploiting natural adhesive strategies to solve medical problems. Many biological organisms rely on adhesion to surfaces for their survival, often implementing elegant and creative solutions that are finely tuned to local environments. Marine mussels, for example, have evolved sophisticated protein glues that robustly attach to rocks and man-made structures such as piers and ship hulls. In contrast, geckos exploit temporary adhesion for the purposes of locomotion in largely dry environments.

Messersmith has combined the strategies of both to create Geckel, an adhesive that mimics the properties of both a gecko and a mussel in order to stay sticky underwater. By studying basic biophysical and chemical studies, he has enhanced the understanding of the molecular aspects of biological adhesion. His research has resulted in the design of novel medical materials useful as surgical adhesives and sealants and as coatings of medical devices.