A fundamental challenge in materials science is engineering durable adhesive bonds in a wet environment. Biological adhesives offer remarkable performances in their natural context and have the potential to inspire novel adhesives for an increasing variety of biotechnologies applications, providing more elegant solutions to modern engineering and biomedical adhesive requirements. The main goal of my project is identifying novel molecules that are involved in biological adhesion using as model organism the cnidarian Hydra magnipapillata. This species harbours several features that render it as suited to study biological adhesion including the strong adhesion in wet surfaces through basal disc-secreting-mucous cells, the state-of-the-art methodological toolbox and, the excellent knowledge of the biological features of this organism. I will gradually narrow down the number of candidate genes that are involved in adhesion, by: first, generating a highly basal disc specific transcriptome database followed by in-situ hybridization screen of basal disc specific genes. Next, knockdown of selected genes will be performed using RNA interference which will result in a non-adhesive phenotype. As of phenotypic validation by electron microscopy, genes will be selected to generate polyclonal antibodies, to further pull-down the adhesive proteins which will then be analysed by Mass Spectometry. The carbohydrate components involved in adhesion will additionally be investigated using lectin staining. Using this iterative multidisciplinary approach, the adhesion´s mechanism can be experimentally studied, and theoretically analysed in order to bring innovative bio-inspired adhesives to the market. Expected outcomes will ultimately to process the appropriate protein/s into useful application that mimics their adapted functions in the Hydra.
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