Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Porcupine Bandage

PostedAugust 25, 2013

Download File (mp3)

Anchor Lead: If you or your pet ever gets stuck by a porcupine quill, you’ll see how firmly they stick in skin. So engineers are mimicking their structure…to seal wounds.

Randy Atkins: Porcupine quills have backward facing barbs. Jeff Karp, a bioengineer at Harvard Medical School, says the design makes them hard to remove once they penetrate but…

Jeff Karp: …just a slight brush against it is enough to have these quills insert very easily into the tissue.

Randy Atkins: That won’t be good for you if run across the animal, but Karp thought the concept would work well in a bandage. So he’s engineered plastic quills into…

Jeff Karp: …a tape that could easily just be pressed into the tissue and then it would exhibit very strong levels of adhesion.

Randy Atkins: I know what you’re thinking: “Great, how do you get it off?!” Karp says not to worry…they’d be biodegradable or…

Jeff Karp: …change their mechanical properties over time so it would be much easier to remove.