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Reported December 17, 2012

Porcupine Inspiration for Medical Devices?


(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Inspiration can come from anywhere, and sometimes animals are a great source of new ideas. A new study reveals how porcupine quills penetrate tissues and why they are so tough to pull out, leading researchers to believe the knowledge could inspire future medical devices. 
Real porcupine quills and replica quills made out of synthetic polyurethane were used to analyze the physical forces that occur when porcupine quills enters and are then removed from muscle and skin, as well as other different tissues. 
Researchers discovered that the shape of the quills allow them to penetrate tissues without difficulty and then stick in. 
Probably a result of evolution, porcupines’ quills need to easily penetrate skin and muscle since the quills cannot shoot through the air.
“We were most surprised to find that the barbs on quills serve a dual function. Namely, the barbs reduce the penetration force for easy insertion into tissue and maximize the holding force to make the quills incredibly difficult to remove,” study author Jeffrey Karp, Ph.D., BWH Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine. 
Study researchers have high hopes for the future applications of this information in the medical community. 
“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,” Karp was quoted as saying.
Maybe one day the porcupine will be who to thank for painless injections. 
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December, 2012


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