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December 11 2012

Porcupine quills inspire medical devices


The tip of a single quill on a porcupine holds as many as 700 backwards-facing barbs that can lodge into the flesh of any animal that wanders too close.

For the first time, scientists have figured out how those barbs work together to make it is so easy for quills to penetrate tissue but so hard to pull them out.

The discovery could inspire a slew of useful medical devices, including needles that hurt less going in or adhesive patches that would prevent gut leakage after gastric bypass surgeries and related procedures. Already, the researchers have created model quills that work like their natural counterparts.

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