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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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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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