Porcupine quills are sharp AF and inspiring a new kind of surgical staple

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/11/porcupine-quills-are-sharp-af.html


Had to read far before I got an answer to the obvious question:
“Karp said he anticipates making the new staples out of biodegradable material so they would fully dissolve over time without having to be pulled out.”


As their name suggests, they’ll also destroy pine trees in pretty short order, by ringing the bark. That, and $200 vet bills for our dog made it the only animal my wife agreed to get rid of on our property.

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I’ve worked for a company that make surgical staples. There are a few problems with this approach. The biggest on is tissue approximation. The other is holding strength.

It takes more than just stabbing and sticking to hold a wound closed. There needs to be some compression. The metal staple forming process provides this. It pulls the sides of the wound together.

And it must hold for 7 to 10 days (YMMV). No more, no less. Less, and you risk reopening the wound. More, and you get significant scarring and possible infection. Metal staples work because they don’t get weaker and are removed at the appropriate time. Bioabsorbable means that it will begin weakening from the first moment. Designing such a staple to never fail before day 7 but fall out by day 10 is hopeless.

Oh, and if recall correctly, this has been tried many times in the past.


Aaaah! Why not just stitch people together with cholla spines?

(Cylindropuntia bigelovii)


I’m also reminded of the ant head suture factoid that surfaces on occasion, which I’m guessing is generally more of a novelty than something of practical use.


Depending where they show up, beavers can make you hate them in short order too.

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I vote groundhogs. They think my garden is a salad bar. But on topic, @Dioptase1 pretty much nails this. Generally, if you have a wound that is under no tension, you would use glue. If you need to pull the edges together, something that just sticks in is not gonna do it. The timing of dissolution is also a huge issue. It is due to this that I have largely given up on dissolving sutures for skin closures. It is nice to not have to come back for removal, but the unpredictability of when they will let loose is just not worth it. Having said that, I am always excited when we are looking at nature for engineering solutions. It has been at this much longer than we have and has tried and perfected stuff we would never consider. So, rock on!! :hugs:


I could see a “stab-only” staple providing compression if the bridge between the legs has a ratcheting feature like a zip-tie.

Yeah, that’s a tough one unless you really control the conditions. Internal bioabsorbance is relatively easy to control: environment is wet, slightly basic (unless in the stomach) and 37 degrees C. Cutaneous conditions vary wildly. Dry to wet. Hot to cold. Acid to base.


And that’s just my armpits.


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