Biomimicry is a copy of the method or techniques of biology or nature for human applications.
This is why man is inspired by nature. Many of nature’s techniques are adapted by man.
You can find many applications of biomimicry on non-living forms like bullet trains etc.
But even modern medicine employs biomimicry deliberately. This extends to cure the disease, prevent the disease and also diagnose the diseases.
The only difference is that instead of using biology’s principles in non-living forms, here, it is used in living forms.
Biomimicry in medicine also extends to aspects like the treatment principle, production of drugs, and effective delivery of drugs.
Biomimicry examples in medicine
1. Shark-let surface texture
Sharks skin is resistant to the growth of sponge or any microbe on it in water.
Scientists studied the reason behind this and found microscopic tooth-like structures over it.
Based on this, Sharklet surface texture is designed.
This shark-let surface texture is used in hospitals on surfaces to avoid sticking and the growth of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes.
2. Gecko tape
Gecko tape is a medicinal device used to fix the intestines during surgery.
Lizards and other reptiles which can walk on erect surfaces have specialized toes.
This design is used to make Gecko-tape made with a similar structure.
This tape is used to attach intestines after surgery without the need for sutures.
3. Production & Use of antibiotics
Antibiotics are drugs that have a lethal effect on disease-causing microbes. Antibiotics have saved the world from many epidemics.
“Alexander Fleming saw that a certain species of fungi grew well in the presence of other destructive bacteria and microbes.
He observed that no bacteria were growing around the point of the fungi. He then isolated the substance which was responsible for inhibiting those foreign bacteria.”
When this isolated substance was given to infected humans, it cured the disease.
The isolated substance called “antibiotic” was used to eradicate the disease caused by bacteria and other microbes in humans.
Later on, many scientists searched for all possible microbial inhibiting substances from similar fungi. This phenomenon is still a life-saving method for humans from dreadful diseases.
Even in the intestine, there are friendly bacteria that restrict other infections. If those friendly bacteria are killed by the drugs we take, then we are prone to severe infections.
Thus the ability of one bacteria to inhibit other bacteria by a substance is used for health.
4. Use & Production of vaccines
No foreign substance should enter into the body other than the oral route. If so, the body tries to remove the foreign particle by engulfing through white blood cells (W.B.C cells) and neutralizing them by antibodies.
These antibodies are so specific against the said substance and do not attack any other substances. Further, the memory for the production of said antibiotics is always present and ready for combating future infiltration of foreign substances.
This phenomenon is used in the prevention of diseases. Dreadful infections like polio, TB, etc., are kept in control by vaccinating children.
These vaccines are dead forms or parts of disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Hence when administered, bodies immune system is stimulated to produce corresponding antibodies.
So when there is an actual infection, due to memory of the immune system for previous exposure, antibodies are produced profusely to prevent the growth of disease-causing microbes.
Similarly, in Sera which is a mixture of antibodies is produced to treat diseases or toxins. For example, a snake bites poison when it enters the body; antibodies are released against it.
But the time span for the process is slower than the poisonous effect taking place, leading to death.
To counter this poison, anti-venom sera are used. These anti-venom sera are produced by injecting snake poison devoid of lethal property into animals like horses.
The healthy animal will produce profuse amounts of anti-venom antibodies that can neutralize the poison.
These anti-venom antibodies are used in health care to neutralize the poison in the case of snake bites.
Many biological like insulin, enzymes, hormones can’t be synthesized artificially.
Even if the synthesized body may not accept the product due to lack of compatibility.
For this purpose, biotechnology mimics the principle of DNA expression in rDNA technology.
In this technology, we insert a gene capable of producing desired hormones or products into bacteria.
Then we encourage the bacteria to produce the desired product by expressing the inserted gene. The desired product is exactly similar to that formed inside the body and hence there are no compatibility issues.
Biomimicry for treatment (principle).
4.Use of HIV to control leukemia: This was an experimental result in recent leukemia (excess rate of WBC forming cancer) treatment in England. HIV, i.e., human immune virus, attacks WBC’s and kills human immune responses.
To a patient suffering from leukemia which was not controlled by drugs, the doctors administered an HIV devoid of immune destruction. These viruses attacked the WBC cells and kept their number under control without inducing AIDS to the patient. This was a trial and not a fully accepted procedure.
5. Biomimicry as a sole principle of homeopathy: In homeopathy, treatment relies on biomimicry. For instance, if a person has a fever (high temperature), he is administered Aconite. Aconite has a natural property to raise body temperature even if consumed by a healthy individual.
So when administered to a person suffering from a fever of 101 degrees F, the chances are the temperature rises further to 104 deg F. The body has a natural tendency to fight disease or disorder. So initially, if it was fighting 101 deg F and now it starts fighting with 104 deg F.
Drug dilutes, and temperature comes to 101 deg F. But since the body got habituated to fight 104 deg F, 101 deg F is easier to fight and overcomes it. This is supposed to be the principle in homeopathic treatment.
If some agree or not, homeopathy stands to be the most better method of treatment than Allopathy in a non-surgical manner due to this biomimicry.
6. Biomimicry in drug delivery
Many drugs are required to function at a particular location in the body to avoid side effects.
Sometimes they get degrade by body metabolism even before they reach the target of the action. To overcome this, biomimicry is done by
a) Use of nano-particles: Food material like carbohydrates and proteins immediately after digestion get absorbed by villi in the small intestine and enter hepatic circulation.
The liver is a principal organ of metabolism; hence any drug which takes this route gets metabolized fast.
But fats (tiny chain fatty acids) after digestion get absorbed by lacteal glands (lymphatic tract) instead of villi in the intestine.
These do not get into hepatic circulation, avoiding prior metabolism.
To make this route possible for the drug to travel without prior metabolism, nanoparticles are used.
Nanoparticles are made of polymer consisting of lipids and even their size is very small in the nanometer range.
Hence drugs are incorporated into them to escape hepatic circulation and avoid untimely metabolism.
b) Chemotactic drug delivery: When there is some pain or wound in the body, the WBC migrates and gets collected at the region of injury by chemo-tactic attraction. Similarly, some chemicals are incorporated along with the drug such that the drug is migrated directly to the point of action.
Thus above are the biomimicry examples applied in health care and medicine for human advantage.
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I am currently doing a graduate certificate degree with Arizona State University and thought I should let you know that the above example on rDNA technology is not biomimicry, but it is bio- utilisation as you are using nature to genetically engineer substances. Biomimicry does not USE nature, but instead LEARNS from it.
If you have any questions please ask and I will go into more detail.
@Ceire McGinley! Thanks for your comment and opinion. But I would say that most of the bacteria we use in RDN technology are created by man by diversification of their genomes from their parent genomes to suit our needs. Its is just like the rodents we use in animals studies which are mild and not offensive but still are animals in a cage.