“If we can figure out how to make them not attach as well, they will be easier to remove or [ensure] they just won’t attach,” Schultzhaus said. “That would save the Navy a lot of money.”
Researchers have used solutions like toxic hexafluoroisopropanol to dissolve the glue and identify proteins. The problem with that method is that not all of the glue fully dissolves. That means that while researchers are able to identify some of the glue’s proteins, they have no way to identify the proteins in the remaining undissolved glue.
“Imagine if you have a lot of salt and you put it in the water,” said Dasha Leary, NRL research biologist “Not all the salt will dissolve. But if you want to study all the salt you need to either add more water or come up with a different way of dissolving it. That’s kind of how these guys are. We have chunks of the proteins, but we need them all broken down in the solution to be able to study them.”
Schultzhaus and her fellow researchers designed a study to test how well their barocycler machine, a laboratory instrument used to subject specimens to cycles of pressure, could break down the proteins with three separate test solvents. The machine worked by continuously applying and releasing high pressure on the samples.