-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Studying porcupine quills
could lead to the development of new medical devices, researchers
A team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston discovered how
North American porcupine quills easily puncture tissue and why,
once stuck in flesh, they are difficult to remove. They did this
using natural porcupine quills and replica-molded synthetic
They said their findings could lead to the creation of needles
that effortlessly penetrate skin and resist buckling, as well as
new types of medical adhesives.
The study was published online Dec. 10 in the journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A porcupine's quills are its key defense mechanism. Each of the
approximately 30,000 quills on a porcupine's back contains a
conical black tip studded with a layer of microscopic,
backward-facing barbs and a cylindrical base with a smooth,
scale-like structure, the researchers said.
The researchers discovered that the quill's geometry and barbs
enable it to penetrate tissue with ease. Once in the tissue, the
barbs keep it in place.
"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," study first author Woo Kyung Cho, of the department of medicine's biomedical engineering division, said in a hospital news release.
In order to assess potential medical uses, the researchers
developed plastic quill replicas that closely mimic the penetration
force and gripping power of natural quills.
The authors pointed out that other creatures in nature have
inspired bioengineered devices. For instance, geckos inspired the
development of tape-based adhesives, they said.
The San Diego Zoo has more about
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