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.
In a new study, the researchers characterized, for the first time, the forces needed for quills to enter and exit the skin. They also created artificial devices with the same mechanical features as the quills, raising the possibility of designing less-painful needles, or adhesives that can bind internal tissues more securely.
From annual flu shots to childhood immunizations, needle injections are among the least popular staples of medical care. Though various techniques have been developed in hopes of taking the “ouch” out of injections, hypodermic needles are still the first choice for ease-of-use, precision and control.
However, a new laser-based system that blasts microscopic jets of drugs into the skin could soon make getting a shot as painless as being hit with a puff of air.
Thanks to tiny microneedles, eye doctors may soon have a better way to treat diseases such as macular degeneration that affect tissues in the back of the eye. That could be important as the population ages and develops more eye-related illnesses– and as pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs that otherwise could only be administered by injecting into the eye with a hypodermic needle.