February 2022 Jobs Report & Industry Update

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Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation — January 2022”

Life Sciences
“UK plants flowering a month earlier due to climate change”

“New holographic camera sees the unseen with high precision”

“No more annual flu shot? New target for universal influenza vaccine”

The Industrials
“Synthetic biology yields easy-to-use underwater adhesives”

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Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation – January 2022”

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 467,000 in January, and the unemployment
rate was little changed at 4.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. Employment growth continued in leisure and hospitality, in professional and
business services, in retail trade, and in transportation and warehousing. 

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey
measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics.
The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry.
For more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two
surveys, see the Technical Note.

|										     |
|                      Changes to The Employment Situation Data                      |
|										     |
| Establishment survey data have been revised as a result of the annual benchmarking |
| process and the updating of seasonal adjustment factors. Also, household survey    |
| data for January 2022 reflect updated population estimates. See the notes at the   |
| end of this news release for more information.				     |

Household Survey Data

Both the unemployment rate, at 4.0 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at
6.5 million, changed little in January. Over the year, the unemployment rate is down
by 2.4 percentage points, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 3.7 million.
In February 2020, prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the unemployment rate
was 3.5 percent, and unemployed persons numbered 5.7 million. (See table A-1. See the
note at the end of this news release and tables B and C for information about annual
population adjustments to the household survey estimates.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.8 percent) and
Whites (3.4 percent) edged up in January. The jobless rates for adult women (3.6 percent),
teenagers (10.9 percent), Blacks (6.9 percent), Asians (3.6 percent), and Hispanics 
(4.9 percent) showed little or no change over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of job leavers increased to 952,000 in January, following
a decrease in the prior month. The number of persons on temporary layoff, at 959,000 in
January, also increased over the month but is down by 1.8 million over the year. The 
number of permanent job losers, at 1.6 million, changed little in January but is down
by 1.9 million from a year earlier. (See table A-11.)

In January, the number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks increased to 2.4 million
and accounted for 37.0 percent of the total unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed
(those jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined to 1.7 million. This measure is down from
4.0 million a year earlier but is 570,000 higher than in February 2020. The long-term
unemployed accounted for 25.9 percent of the total unemployed in January. (See table A-12.)

After accounting for the annual adjustments to the population controls, the labor force
participation rate held at 62.2 percent in January, and the employment-population ratio
was little changed at 59.7 percent. Both measures are up over the year but remain below
their February 2020 levels (63.4 percent and 61.2 percent, respectively). (See table A-1.
For additional information about the effects of the population adjustments, see table C.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 3.7 million, continued
to trend down over the month. The over-the-year decline of 2.2 million brings this measure
to 673,000 below its February 2020 level. These individuals, who would have preferred
full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they
were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was little changed
at 5.7 million in January. This measure decreased by 1.3 million over the year but is
708,000 higher than in February 2020. These individuals were not counted as unemployed
because they were not actively looking for work during the 4 weeks preceding the survey
or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who wanted a job, the number of persons marginally
attached to the labor force, at 1.5 million, changed little in January. These individuals
wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12
months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of
discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were
available for them, was also little changed over the month, at 408,000. (See Summary
table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In January, the share of employed persons who teleworked because of the coronavirus
pandemic increased to 15.4 percent. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked
or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey specifically
because of the pandemic.

In January, 6.0 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their
employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work at all
or worked fewer hours at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey due to the
pandemic. This measure is considerably higher than the level of 3.1 million in December.
Among those who reported in January that they were unable to work because of pandemic-
related closures or lost business, 23.7 percent received at least some pay from their
employer for the hours not worked, up from the prior month. 

Among those not in the labor force in January, 1.8 million persons were prevented from
looking for work due to the pandemic, up from 1.1 million in the prior month. (To be
counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either actively looking for
work or on temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in
May 2020 to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data are
not seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all
months are available online at 

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 467,000 in January, compared with an
average monthly gain of 555,000 in 2021. Nonfarm employment has increased by 19.1 
million since April 2020 but is down by 2.9 million, or 1.9 percent, from its pre-
pandemic level in February 2020. In January, employment growth continued in leisure
and hospitality, in professional and business services, in retail trade, and in
transportation and warehousing. (See table B-1. See the note at the end of this news
release and table A for information about the annual benchmark process.)

Employment in leisure and hospitality expanded by 151,000 in January, reflecting job
gains in food services and drinking places (+108,000) and in the accommodation industry
(+23,000). Since February 2020, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 1.8
million, or 10.3 percent. 

In January, professional and business services added 86,000 jobs. Job gains occurred
in management and technical consulting services (+16,000), computer systems design
and related services (+15,000), architectural and engineering services (+8,000), and
other professional and technical services (+7,000). Employment in temporary help
services continued to trend up (+26,000). Employment in professional and business
services is 511,000 higher than in February 2020, largely in temporary help services
(+185,000), computer systems design and related services (+161,000), and management
and technical consulting services (+151,000).

Retail trade employment rose by 61,000 in January. Job growth occurred in general
merchandise stores (+29,000); health and personal care stores (+11,000); sporting
goods, hobby, book, and music stores (+7,000); and building material and garden supply
stores (+6,000). Retail trade employment is 61,000 above its level in February 2020.

Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 54,000 in January and is 
542,000 higher than in February 2020. In January, job gains occurred in couriers and
messengers (+21,000), warehousing and storage (+13,000), truck transportation (+8,000),
and air transportation (+7,000). All four of these component industries have surpassed
their February 2020 employment levels, with particularly strong growth in warehousing
and storage (+410,000) and couriers and messengers (+236,000). 

Employment in local government education rose by 29,000 in January but is down by
359,000, or 4.4 percent, since February 2020.

Employment in health care continued to trend up (+18,000) over the month but is down
by 378,000, or 2.3 percent, from its level in February 2020. 

Wholesale trade added 16,000 jobs in January, with gains in both durable goods (+11,000)
and nondurable goods (+8,000). Employment in wholesale trade is 125,000, or 2.1 percent,
lower than in February 2020.

Employment showed little change over the month in mining, construction, manufacturing,
information, financial activities, and other services.   

In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
increased by 23 cents to $31.63. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have
increased by 5.7 percent. In January, average hourly earnings of private-sector
production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 17 cents to $26.92. (See tables B-3 and

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls fell by 0.2 hour to
34.5 hours in January. In manufacturing, the average workweek edged down by 0.1 hour to
40.2 hours, and overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.3 hours. The average workweek for
production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.2 
hour to 33.9 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

In accordance with usual practice, the seasonal adjustment models are updated as part
of the annual benchmark process. As a result of the updates, there were some large 
revisions to seasonally adjusted data that mostly offset each other. (See the note at
the end of this news release and table A for information about the revisions, the
annual benchmark process, and the seasonal adjustment model updates.) 

The Employment Situation for February is scheduled to be released on Friday,
March 4, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).

Employment Situation Summary (bls.gov)

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Life Sciences
“UK plants flowering a month earlier due to climate change”

Climate change is causing plants in the UK to flower a month earlier on average, which could have profound consequences for wildlife, agriculture and gardeners.

Using a citizen science database with records going back to the mid-18th century, a research team led by the University of Cambridge has found that the effects of climate change are causing plants in the UK to flower one month earlier under recent global warming.

The researchers based their analysis on more than 400,000 observations of 406 plant species from Nature’s Calendar, maintained by the Woodland Trust, and collated the first flowering dates with instrumental temperature measurements.

They found that the average first flowering date from 1987 to 2019 is a full month earlier than the average first flowering date from 1753 to 1986. The same period coincides with accelerating global warming caused by human activities. The results are reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

While the first spring flowers are always a welcome sight, this earlier flowering can have consequences for the UK’s ecosystems and agriculture. Other species that synchronise their migration or hibernation can be left without the flowers and plants they rely on — a phenomenon known as ecological mismatch — which can lead to biodiversity loss if populations cannot adapt quickly enough.

The change can also have consequences for farmers and gardeners. If fruit trees, for example, flower early following a mild winter, entire crops can be killed off if the blossoms are then hit by a late frost.

While we can see the effects of climate change through extreme weather events and increasing climate variability, the long-term effects of climate change on ecosystems are more subtle and are therefore difficult to recognise and quantify.

“We can use a wide range of environmental datasets to see how climate change is affecting different species, but most records we have only consider one or a handful of species in a relatively small area,” said Professor Ulf Büntgen from Cambridge’s Department of Geography, the study’s lead author. “To really understand what climate change is doing to our world, we need much larger datasets that look at whole ecosystems over a long period of time.”

The UK has such a dataset: since the 18th century, observations of seasonal change have been recorded by scientists, naturalists, amateur and professional gardeners, as well as organisations such as the Royal Meteorological Society. In 2000, the Woodland Trust joined forced with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and collated these records into Nature’s Calendar, which currently has around 3.5 million records going back to 1736.advertisementhttps://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/adi/N636.1248839.SWOOP/B27032273.325943538;sz=728×90;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=$%7BGDPR%7D;gdpr_consent=$%7BGDPR_CONSENT_755%7D?

“Anyone in the UK can submit a record to Nature’s Calendar, by logging their observations of plants and wildlife,” said Büntgen. “It’s an incredibly rich and varied data source, and alongside temperature records, we can use it to quantify how climate change is affecting the functioning of various ecosystem components across the UK.”

For the current study, the researchers used over 400,000 records from Nature’s Calendar to study changes in 406 flowering plant species in the UK, between 1753 and 2019. They used observations of the first flowering date of trees, shrubs, herbs and climbers, in locations from the Channel Islands to Shetland, and from Northern Ireland to Suffolk.

The researchers classified the observations in various ways: by location, elevation, and whether they were from urban or rural areas. The first flowering dates were then compared with monthly climate records.

To better balance the number of observations, the researchers divided the full dataset into records until 1986, and from 1987 onwards. The average first flowering advanced by a full month, and is strongly correlated with rising global temperatures.

“The results are truly alarming, because of the ecological risks associated with earlier flowering times,” said Büntgen. “When plants flower too early, a late frost can kill them — a phenomenon that most gardeners will have experienced at some point. But the even bigger risk is ecological mismatch. Plants, insects, birds and other wildlife have co-evolved to a point that they’re synchronised in their development stages. A certain plant flowers, it attracts a particular type of insect, which attracts a particular type of bird, and so on. But if one component responds faster than the others, there’s a risk that they’ll be out of synch, which can lead species to collapse if they can’t adapt quickly enough.”

Büntgen says that if global temperatures continue to increase at their current rate, spring in the UK could eventually start in February. However, many of the species that our forests, gardens and farms rely on could experience serious problems given the rapid pace of change.

“Continued monitoring is necessary to ensure that we better understand the consequences of a changing climate,” said co-author Professor Tim Sparks from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology. “Contributing records to Nature’s Calendar is an activity that everyone can engage in.”

The research was supported in part by the European Research Council, the Fritz and Elisabeth Schweingruber Foundation, and the Woodland Trust.

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“New holographic camera sees the unseen with high precision”

Called synthetic wavelength holography, the new method works by indirectly scattering coherent light onto hidden objects, which then scatters again and travels back to a camera. From there, an algorithm reconstructs the scattered light signal to reveal the hidden objects. Due to its high temporal resolution, the method also has potential to image fast-moving objects, such as the beating heart through the chest or speeding cars around a street corner.

The study will be published on Nov. 17 in the journal Nature Communications.

The relatively new research field of imaging objects behind occlusions or scattering media is called non-line-of-sight (NLoS) imaging. Compared to related NLoS imaging technologies, the Northwestern method can rapidly capture full-field images of large areas with submillimeter precision. With this level of resolution, the computational camera could potentially image through the skin to see even the tiniest capillaries at work.

While the method has obvious potential for noninvasive medical imaging, early-warning navigation systems for automobiles and industrial inspection in tightly confined spaces, the researchers believe potential applications are endless.

“Our technology will usher in a new wave of imaging capabilities,” said Northwestern’s Florian Willomitzer, first author of the study. “Our current sensor prototypes use visible or infrared light, but the principle is universal and could be extended to other wavelengths. For example, the same method could be applied to radio waves for space exploration or underwater acoustic imaging. It can be applied to many areas, and we have only scratched the surface.”

Willomitzer is a research assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. Northwestern co-authors include Oliver Cossairt, associate professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering, and former Ph.D. student Fengqiang Li. The Northwestern researchers collaborated closely with Prasanna Rangarajan, Muralidhar Balaji and Marc Christensen, all researchers at Southern Methodist University.

Intercepting scattered light

Seeing around a corner versus imaging an organ inside the human body might seem like very different challenges, but Willomitzer said they are actually closely related. Both deal with scattering media, in which light hits an object and scatters in a manner that a direct image of the object can no longer be seen.

“If you have ever tried to shine a flashlight through your hand, then you have experienced this phenomenon,” Willomitzer said. “You see a bright spot on the other side of your hand, but, theoretically, there should be a shadow cast by your bones, revealing the bones’ structure. Instead, the light that passes the bones gets scattered within the tissue in all directions, completely blurring out the shadow image.”

The goal, then, is to intercept the scattered light in order to reconstruct the inherent information about its time of travel to reveal the hidden object. But that presents its own challenge.

“Nothing is faster than the speed of light, so if you want to measure light’s time of travel with high precision, then you need extremely fast detectors,” Willomitzer said. “Such detectors can be terribly expensive.”

Tailored waves

To eliminate the need for fast detectors, Willomitzer and his colleagues merged light waves from two lasers in order to generate a synthetic light wave that can be specifically tailored to holographic imaging in different scattering scenarios.

“If you can capture the entire light field of an object in a hologram, then you can reconstruct the object’s three-dimensional shape in its entirety,” Willomitzer explained. “We do this holographic imaging around a corner or through scatterers — with synthetic waves instead of normal light waves.”

Over the years, there have been many NLoS imaging attempts to recover images of hidden objects. But these methods typically have one or more problems. They either have low resolution, an extremely small angular field of regard, require a time-consuming raster scan or need large probing areas to measure the scattered light signal.

The new technology, however, overcomes these issues and is the first method for imaging around corners and through scattering media that combines high spatial resolution, high temporal resolution, a small probing area and a large angular field of view. This means that the camera can image tiny features in tightly confined spaces as well as hidden objects in large areas with high resolution — even when the objects are moving.

Turning ‘walls into mirrors’

Because light only travels on straight paths, an opaque barrier (such as a wall, shrub or automobile) must be present in order for the new device to see around corners. The light is emitted from the sensor unit (which could be mounted on top of a car), bounces off the barrier, then hits the object around the corner. The light then bounces back to the barrier and ultimately back into the detector of the sensor unit.

“It’s like we can plant a virtual computational camera on every remote surface to see the world from the surface’s perspective,” Willomitzer said.

For people driving roads curving through a mountain pass or snaking through a rural forest, this method could prevent accidents by revealing other cars or deer just out of sight around the bend. “This technique turns walls into mirrors,” Willomitzer said. “It gets better as the technique also can work at night and in foggy weather conditions.”

In this manner, the high-resolution technology also could replace (or supplement) endoscopes for medical and industrial imaging. Instead of needing a flexible camera, capable of turning corners and twisting through tight spaces — for a colonoscopy, for example — synthetic wavelength holography could use light to see around the many folds inside the intestines.

Similarly, synthetic wavelength holography could image inside industrial equipment while it is still running — a feat that is impossible for current endoscopes.

“If you have a running turbine and want to inspect defects inside, you would typically use an endoscope,” Willomitzer said. “But some defects only show up when the device is in motion. You cannot use an endoscope and look inside the turbine from the front while it is running. Our sensor can look inside a running turbine to detect structures that are smaller than one millimeter.”

Although the technology is currently a prototype, Willomitzer believes it will eventually be used to help drivers avoid accidents. “It’s still a long way to go before we see these kinds of imagers built in cars or approved for medical applications,” he said. “Maybe 10 years or even more, but it will come.”

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“No more annual flu shot? New target for universal influenza vaccine”

“It’s always very exciting to discover a new site of vulnerability on a virus because it paves the way for rational vaccine design,” says co-senior author Andrew Ward, PhD, professor of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at Scripps Research. “It also demonstrates that despite all the years and effort of influenza vaccine research there are still new things to discover.”

“By identifying sites of vulnerability to antibodies that are shared by large numbers of variant influenza strains we can design vaccines that are less affected by viral mutations,” says study co-senior author Patrick Wilson, MD, who was previously at the University of Chicago and recently recruited to Weill Cornell Medicine as a professor of pediatrics and a scientist in the institution’s Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health. “The anchor antibodies we describe bind to such a site. The antibodies themselves can also be developed as drugs with broad therapeutic applications.”

In a typical year, influenza affects more than 20 million people in the United States and leads to more than 20,000 deaths. Vaccines against influenza typically coax the immune system to generate antibodies that recognize the head of hemagglutinin (HA), a protein that extends outward from the surface of the flu virus. The head is the most accessible regions of HA, making it a good target for the immune system; unfortunately, it is also one of the most variable. From year to year, the head of HA often mutates, necessitating new vaccines.

Researchers have designed experimental influenza vaccines to be more universal, spurring the body to create antibodies against the less-variable stalk region of HA, which extends like a stem between the influenza virion and the HA head. Some of these universal flu vaccines are currently in early clinical trials.

In the new study, a collaborative team of scientists characterized 358 different antibodies present in the blood of people who had either been given a seasonal influenza vaccine, were in a phase I trial for an experimental, universal influenza vaccine, or had been naturally infected with influenza.

Many of the antibodies present in the blood of participants were antibodies already known to recognize either the HA head or stalk. But a collection of new antibodies stood out; the antibodies bound to the very bottom of the stalk, near where each HA molecule is attached to the membrane of the flu virion.

The co-first authors of the manuscript — Julianna Han, a staff scientist in the Ward lab, and Jenna Guthmiller, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago — named this section of HA the anchor, and began studying it further. In all, the scientists identified 50 different antibodies to the HA anchor, from a total of 21 individuals. The antibodies, they discovered, recognized a variety of H1 influenza viruses, which account for many seasonal flu strains. Some of the antibodies were also able to recognize pandemic H2 and H5 strains of influenza in lab tests. And in mice, the antibodies successfully protected against infection by three different H1 influenza viruses.

“In order to increase our protection to these highly mutating viruses, we need to have as many tools as we can,” says Han. “This discovery adds one more highly potent target to our repertoire.” Importantly, these antibodies appear to be fairly common in people, and belong to a class of antibodies that any person’s body can produce — an important consideration in designing a vaccine to spur their development.

“The human immune system already has the ability to make antibodies to this epitope, so it’s just a matter of applying modern protein engineering methods to make a vaccine that can induce those antibodies in sufficient numbers,” adds Guthmiller.

The researchers say that future, improved iterations of a universal vaccine could more purposefully aim to generate anchor antibodies. Until now, scientists designing universal vaccines hadn’t paid attention to whether the anchor region of the stem was included as a target. Ideally, a universal influenza vaccine will lead to antibodies against multiple sections of the virus — such as both the HA anchor and the stalk — to increase protection to evolving viruses.

The researchers are planning future studies on how to design a vaccine that most directly targets the HA anchor of different influenza strains.

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The Industrials

“Synthetic biology yields easy-to-use underwater adhesives”

Researchers a the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a method that uses engineered microbes to produce the necessary ingredients for a biocompatible adhesive hydrogel that is as strong as spider silk and as adhesive as mussel foot protein (Mfp), which means it can stick to a myriad of surfaces underwater.

The research led by Fuzhong Zhang, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering, was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

“Researchers have been trying to develop adhesives that can work underwater, or even just when they are wet, for quite some time,” said Eugene Kim, currently an assistant professor at George Mason University. Kim is first author of the paper and worked on this project as a PhD student in Zhang’s Washington University lab.

The research team also included Young-Shin Jun, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering, and Guy Genin, the Harold and Kathleen Faught Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

“In a previous proof-of-concept study, we engineered microbes to produce a mussel foot protein (Mfp) and its oligomeric variants,” Kim said. These variants are molecules made of a repeating chain of Mfp, with properties that vary based on the number of repeats.

“We wanted to know whether synthetic biology could help with underwater adhesion, a challenging task for synthetic materials.”

In 2018, Zhang’s lab showed that Mfp made by engineered bacteria has similar underwater adhesive properties as natural Mfps — and they could make Mfp oligomers that are even stickier.

Even though the microbial Mfp was incredibly sticky, they are difficult to handle underwater as the protein molecules quickly diffuse once added to water.

“When underwater, we had to make sure the adhesive Mfp could remain on a surface during repair,” Kim said.

One common solution to prevent diffusion is to formulate the adhesive Mfp protein into a hydrogel. The hydrogel has to be strong, or ideally, stronger than the adhesive force. However, it is extremely challenging to make a material that is both strong and adhesive as there is commonly a trade-off between these two properties, Kim said. “Many Mfp-inspired adhesives are weak. When you use them to adhere two surfaces underwater, the glue sticks to each of the two surfaces, but breaks apart, akin to separating an Oreo cookie and being left with cream on both sides.”

That’s where spider silk came in.

For years, Zhang’s lab has also been using synthetic biology to engineer and produce spider silk proteins. Earlier this year, they produced a silk-amyloid hybrid protein that was stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar. The high strength of this silk-amyloid hybrid — which keeps the material intact — was just what was needed for their adhesive.

The team integrated the silk-amyloid protein with Mfp and, using a synthetic biology approach, synthesized a tri-hybrid protein that has the benefits of both the strong adhesion of Mfp and the high strength of spider silk. Using the tri-hybrid protein, they prepared adhesive hydrogels.

“We developed a design principle that allowed us to control both cohesion and adhesion of the hydrogel,” Zhang said. “The gel is slightly denser than water so you can easily use it underwater, putting it on or between two surfaces.”

Because the protein-based adhesive can be biocompatible and biodegradable, the lab is particularly excited about its potential applications in tissue repair. This protein, they write in the paper, is particularly attractive for tendon-bone repair, which suffers from a high failure rate from current suture-based strategies.

“Spiders, bacteria, slimy sea creatures, and rotator cuff tears have very little in common,” Jun noted. “It is fascinating that the Zhang lab was able to combine the best parts of the first three and to make the new elastic materials with molecular-scale crystalline structures that can serve as a stronger and flexible adhesive. It would be even cooler when we can use it in medical care for repairing shoulder injuries.”

By controlling bacteria to modify each motif of the protein, including parts from spider silk and mussel foot proteins, they can control the adhesion and strength of the hydrogel, tailoring it to meet the specific requirements for tendon-bone repair and other tissue repair needs.

Genin put the research into the context of humans’ longstanding, complicated relationships with bacteria.

“We’ve gotten bacteria to help heal a wound — for the first time, ever,” Genin said. “Bacteria caused our ancestors to cut their limbs off and now, for the first time, we’ve been able to hijack bacteria to make a material that’s unattainable any other way, with biomedical applications including rotator cuff surgeries that actually make limbs work again.

“This is unbelievably cool.”

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