UNT researchers aim to make zebra mussel problem less sticky



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Posted on June 24, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 12:13 PM

FORT WORTH — North Texas researchers say they may have a way to stop some of the damage caused by zebra mussels.

The invasive species has already turned up in Lake Texoma, Lewisville Lake, and Lake Ray Roberts. There are signs that Eagle Mountain and Lake Bridgeport will soon have problems too. It's the kudzu of the mussel world.

Researchers at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth have a plan to defeat these destructive little mollusks. It's a classic case of intellect over mussel -- keep them from sticking to things.

"So if we have surfaces and they try to put the glues down, they can't stick to those surfaces," said John Schetz, PhD.D. in the department of pharmacology and neuroscience.

"I would estimate we could do it in under two years," he said.

Schetz believes he can find a way to keep zebra mussel glue from sticking to pipes, boats, and other surfaces.

"They put down these bissel threads, and there's little cement pads at the ends here," he said pointing to the tiny threads, which are like hairs with glue on them.

Researchers have already come up with a coating to keep barnacles from sticking. That research is making its way to the marketplace, with help from the National Science Foundation.

But the UNT Health Science Center is still trying to get funding for zebra mussel research, even though nationwide we spend about a billion dollars a year on damage they do.

Schetz believes he and his researchers can solve the zebra mussel glue puzzle for about $1 million. When they start clogging up pipes bringing water to North Texas, Schetz says, we will pay a much higher price.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com