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On quills and needles: Prickly porcupine is a muse for future medical devices
Date:12/10/2012

t through the air, they must penetrate tissue very easily and thus have evolved a specialized mechanism to achieve this that depends on the backwards-facing barbs. The barbs can be thought of as similar to serrated blades that require less work to cut tissue by localizing forces at the tips of the teeth of the blade. Just as serrated blades provide cleaner cuts in tissue, the barbs appear to minimize the penetration force through reducing the deformation of the tissue.

"By carefully removing the barbs' from the quill, we discovered that in addition to their physical features, the location of barbs on the quill played a major role in minimizing penetration forces and maximizing the work needed to yank them from the tissue," said Woo Kyung Cho, PhD, BWH Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, first study author.

The authors compared the potential of this finding to other things in nature that have inspired bioengineered devices, such as the development of Velcro hook-and-loop fasteners and the development of tape-based adhesives inspired by geckos.

The researchers expect that this approach should have many implications across multiple disciplines including medicine. "This is especially true given that quills can strongly grip tissue with minimal depth of penetration, less than half a centimeter is enough and they don't need to bend like staples to achieve secure fixation," said James Ankrum, PhD, MIT graduate student and study co-author.

"Towards medical applications we developed plastic replicas that remarkably mimicked the reduced penetration force and increased pullout. This should be useful to develop next generation medical adhesives and potentially design needles with reduced pain," added Karp.

According to the researchers, the next step will be to test the synthetic porcupine quill approach in a variety of medical applications.

"This work is a valuable addition to our understanding t
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Contact: Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg
mmontemayor-quellenberg@partners.org
617-534-2208
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert  

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