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Surprising Science

An Alternative To Surgical Staples, Inspired By A Parasite

Scientists borrowed the latching ability of the spiny-headed worm to create a microneedle device that is over three times stronger than staples and easier to remove, making it ideal for delicate skin grafts.

What’s the Latest Development?

Parasites latch onto their hosts in many different ways, and one of them, Pomphorhynchus laevis, has inspired scientists to create a microneedle device that, when used for delicate skin grafts in particular, is both safer and considerably stronger than surgical staples. The parasite, also known as the spiny-headed worm, attaches to its fish host by inserting its “nose” into the fish’s intestinal wall and then inflating its tip. Similarly, the device’s microneedles contain polyacrylic acid, which is the same material used to absorb water in disposable diapers. A graft covered with these devices and applied to the skin “locks in” when the needles come in contact with the water in the skin’s tissues.

What’s the Big Idea?

Researcher Jeffrey Karp says, “Parasites have all sorts of neat tricks…[W]e thought maybe if we looked into how parasites can colonize their hosts, we might be able to identify new mechanisms of adhesion.”One benefit of this device is that it comes out easily, since the needles dry out and deflate. Most conventional ways of sealing people back up after surgery come with risks, including infection and skin damage. Karp and his team have published details of their discovery online in Nature Communications.

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Read it at The Los Angeles Times


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