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Porcupine Quill Needles Inspire Less Painful Needles


North American porcupine quills, which easily puncture tissue and lodge stubbornly in the flesh thereafter, may provide a clue to designing new medical needles, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (December 10).

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston say that their new needle designs, based on those of the porcupine, could lead to the production of needles that effortlessly penetrate skin and resist buckling.

The barbs on the quill are the secret according to the study's authors, as barbed quills require 60 to 70 percent less force to penetrate muscle tissue and were four times harder to remove.

"If you can still create the stress concentrations, but without having a barb that catches tissue on removal, potentially you could create something with just easy insertion, without the adhesion," study coauthor James Ankrum of MIT said in a statement.

In addition to new needles, researchers speculate that porcupine quills could inspire new designs for the staples and sutures used to close wounds after surgery.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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