Interesting Plants – Drosera Regia (King Sundew)

The Sundew – The New Method to Repairing Damaged Body Parts?

Katie Whelan, Staff Writer

The King Sundew certainly earns its name, being one of the largest species of Sundew. Its giant leaves can extend up to 2′ and it produces adhesive dew that glistens and attracts even larger insects like beetles. The sundew also has glands that produce nectar to attract its prey.

When the King Sundew detects movement, it moves its tentacles to feel and detect if the movement is prey. The plant can then then coil toward the stimuli, this is called positive thigmotropism.

Sundews can trap and smother insects in a matter of minutes, but it can take weeks for the enzymes to digest and dissolve it. All that’s left is a dry exoskeleton of the pest. The Sundews, like many carnivorous plants, do this to absorb nitrogen and other nutrients. This allows them to thrive in sandy, acidic soil that lacks nutrients.

In the natural environment, the King Sundew is very rare. There are only a few hundred individual plants of this species in a single valley in South Africa. Though, people find it easy to propagate by seeds or by using root cuttings that originated from the plants in South Africa.

Even more interesting, scientists may have discovered a new method of replacing or repairing damaged parts of the body using Sundew adhesive. The intent is to transplant a significant number of tissue cells to the area of an injury and hope that the foreign cells integrate and grow into the body as healthy and functional tissue.

Mingjun Zhang, a biomedical engineer, proved that neurons linked to the Sundew adhesive could divide and differentiate and that bone and skin cells could also cling to the substance. He thinks the Sundew adhesive could be modified to act as a ‘scaffold’ for the tissue cells to cling to and form into a new layer of skin.

However, this medical practice is not revolutionary. Tissue engineering methods typically use materials such as meshes, sponges, gels, and films. However, the Sundew material could one day be successful in forming a secure bond between the implant and the host tissue, simply by brushing a mixture of the substance and the necessary cells onto a wound or in surgery.

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