Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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How natural suction organs work – inspiration for bioengineering solutions

16 January 2022

Midge Lure

Pounded by a torrent of river water, the young larvae of net-winged midges cling stubbornly to wet rocks, sucking against the uneven surface to survive. The little suckers are tempting bioengineers with the potential for biomedical devices aiming to withstand the turbulent flow inside our blood vessels. Here scientists examine the insect’s anatomy using computed microtomography. They find suction organs covered in hundreds of tiny 'spine-like' microtrichia, which touch their tips to rough surfaces, helping to mould around bumps forming a tight seal. These organs allow the midges to withstand forces hundreds of times their own body weight. Along with insights from similar anatomy in fish and octopuses, they may help bioengineers design suction cups attracted to different types of slippery surface in and around our bodies.

Written by John Ankers

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