Hagfish Slime Fashion

  • By Anna Rothschild
  • Posted 07.16.15
  • NOVA

Scientists think hagfish slime could be the next eco-friendly, high-performance material. Find out more in this episode of Gross Science.

Running Time: 01:49


Hagfish Slime Fashion

Posted: July 16, 2015

What will the clothing of the future be made of? How about slime?

I’m Anna Rothschild and this is Gross Science.

Hagfish are eel-like creatures that live on the ocean floor. They’re ancient animals that don’t have backbones, or scales, or even jaws. What they do have is slime—and lots of it. When they’re attacked they can release about a liter of slime, which clogs the mouths and gills of their assailants, making them unable to breathe.

The slime is composed of two parts. There’s mucus and thread-like fibers. And these fibers are special—they’re thin and act a bit like super-strong silk. So scientists think they could be a candidate for the next eco-friendly, high-performance clothing material.

You see, common high-performance fibers, like Nylon and Spandex, are made from petroleum. But hagfish thread is made of proteins, which would make it a great, renewable alternative if we could find a way to mass produce it sustainably.

The issue is that hagfish don’t breed in captivity, so we can’t set up hagfish farms where we could harvest large quantities of their thread. (Which, I know, would have been really awesome.) Instead, scientists are hoping to genetically engineer other organisms, like bacteria, to produce the fibers.

Now, you won’t be seeing hagfish slime clothing anytime soon, but the researchers think that one day we might have hagfish stockings, or bullet proof vests, or maybe hagfish yoga pants. And personally I can’t wait for a future where I could workout in the slime of an ancient sea creature.




Host, Writer, Animator, Editor
Anna Rothschild
DP, Sound
Elizabeth Gillis
Many thanks to Dr. Douglas Fudge.
A Little Mischief b
Music Provided by APM


Hagfish Defense Mechanism Footage
© Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Photographs of slime and fibers
Anna Rothschild/©WGBH Educational Foundation
Wikimedia Commons/Antique Rose
Aerobic exercise – public demonstration12
Wikimedia Commons/ShinyFan
Wikimedia Commons/Arne Hückelheim
Straw hat, Vietnamese Women’s Museum
Wikimedia Commons/Vietnamese Women’s Museum


(used with permission from author)
Squeak Pack/squeak_10
Produced by WGBH for PBS Digital Studios


(main image: Hagfish)
©WGBH Educational Foundation 2015


Want more info?

More on hagfish slime from the Fudge Lab at the University of Guelph:

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