James Ankrum is Taking Inspiration from a Porcupine’s Quills


December 15, 2012

Anyone unfortunate enough to encounter a porcupine’s quills knows that once they go in, they are extremely difficult to remove. Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital now hope to exploit the porcupine quill’s unique properties to develop new types of adhesives, needles and other medical devices.

To explore the possibility of making stronger adhesives, the researchers created a patch with an array of barbed quills on one side. They found that the energy required to remove this patch was 30 times greater than that needed for a control patch, which had quills but no barbs.

The system could also be tweaked so that it penetrates tissue easily but is not as difficult to remove as a porcupine quill, enabling design of less-painful needles for injections. “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,” says James Ankrum, a graduate student in HST, an author of the paper, and a Hugh Hampton Young fellow. Read the article on Science Daily.

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