|North American Porcupine
Porcupine Quill – Surgical staple
American porcupines are well known for their unusual defense. An adult is coated with perhaps 30,000 needle-like hairs. An
unfortunate dog that gets too close may find its nose resembling a pin cushion. Furthermore, the needles are not easy to remove.
They are coated with microscopic, flexible plate-like barbs which make penetration relatively easy, but extraction requires
a strong and painful pull.
|Electron microscope view of quill
Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston report that the porcupine quill is inspiring new beneficial
designs in medicine (Cho, 2012). In certain procedures, surgical staples or sutures are needed. Efficient stitching can be
done with artificial, porcupine-style barbs which hold the staples firmly in place. It is also possible to design the staples
with barbs that eventually biodegrade and allow easy removal.