Discovery of the intricate and rational design of natural materials, such as stones, wood, insects, and animals, compared to any artificial sculpture made by humans, has been attributed to scientists. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek of the Netherlands, who first discovered microbes using a microscope, and Robert Hooke of England, who followed in his footsteps and left behind observations of the micro-world, were astounded by the fine hairs of chicken feathers and the porous surfaces of cork.
Since then, scientists have moved beyond mere observation to actively imitate the form and function of natural materials. This branch of engineering is known as biomimicry or nature-inspired technology. Examples of this technology include surgical tapes mimicking the gecko’s adhesive properties, and synthetic fibers mimicking the remarkable strength and elasticity of spider silk.
A team of researchers from Korea University’s Department of Bioengineering, along with Professors Jung Jae-sung from Anam Hospital’s Thoracic Surgery and Jo Yang-hyun from Samsung Seoul Hospital, have successfully developed artificial blood vessels that can push blood out of the body by mimicking the surface structure of insect shells.
The unique double-reentrant structure of the shell surface of Collembola, or springtails, which live in environments such as under deciduous leaves or rotten wood, on water, sand, and in swamps, enables them to push respiratory-blocking water and oil components out of their skin and survive by breathing through their skin. Therefore, by imitating this surface structure, blood containing both water and oil components can be naturally pushed out of the vessel and prevent blood clots without any chemical treatment of the medical device surface. This research was recently published in the prestigious journal Small in the field of micro and nano-materials, as part of the Nano Connect Project of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.
Compared to conventional treatments that prevent blood clots using anticoagulants, such as blood coagulation inhibitors, the use of artificial blood vessels that mimic the surface structure of insect shells can dramatically reduce side effects such as bleeding or decreased platelets. Furthermore, this technology can be extended to various fields, as it can provide anti-coagulant functions to the surface of medical devices without the need for any special chemical treatment.