There’s no better place for scientists to seek eco-friendly, high-strength materials than in nature, and researchers at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, reeled in the hagfish for fiber research. The hagfish (Class Myxini) is an ugly eel-like sea creature with four hearts, two brains and the ability to generate a fibrous slime when disturbed. The slime fibers resemble spider dragline silk in strength and toughness, but are much easier to collect and incorporate into composite materials. The fibers can be concentrated and later reconstituted with seawater.
The unusually stiff, strong slime fibers depend on protein structures similar to those of spider silk. University researchers are developing a prototype composite, which may be appropriate for products such as textiles, biomedical and electronic devices, tissue engineering and biosensors. The University of Guelph is a member of C4, a coordinating group for 10 institutions that foster innovation in Southwest Ontario by promoting technology transfer and commercialization. The University’s Business Development Office is seeking partners to work on practical applications for the patented fiber process.