A horrifying cage of octopus arms is the last thing a crab (or a pirate, if you believe the legends) sees as suckers pull it helplessly towards a waiting mouth. Scientists know that an octopus’s infundibular, or funnel-shaped, suckers stick to wet and dry surfaces – a feat that surgeons could put to good use. The first step to making artificial suckers is covering this silicon disc with thousands of round particles, which scatter white light in a distinctive rainbow pattern. Biotechnologists next 'print' a mould using the disc like a stamp. Then it’s just a matter of pouring a bendy material called PDMS into the mould – out pop thousands of tiny 'nanosuckers'. Although a long way from the sea, nanosuckers imitate the forces that an octopus uses to pull its prey closer – biomimicry that researchers are using to create bandages that stick to slippery organs like the heart.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.