BOSTON -

Spiders, porcupines and worms are allowing researchers to develop a new neonatal medical tape that, unlike old tape, doesn’t tear the tender skin of babies.

Jeffery Karp, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, used geometry from the spider's web and added a third layer to the bandage.

“We changed the point where the bandage breaks to a middle layer,” Karp said.

The Spiny Headed Worm helps Karp’s team create a micro-needle adhesive patch to help keep skin grafts in place.  Inspired by a parasite worm feeding off fish, scientists designed these needles to grab onto the skin, swell up, and lock in.

“There's a greater chance of engraftment, so less complications and less number of procedures,” Karp explained.

Porcupine quills, because of their geometry and backward facing barbs, allow for easier penetration than standard needles.

“When a clinician is pushing a needle, for example, into tissue, if they have to push harder on the needle there is a greater chance of overshooting the injuries,” Karp said.

Karp’s team believes the biomedical patch could someday deliver medicine to patients.  So far, this tape has not gone through human clinical trials.

Additional Information:

Bioengineer Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is used to finding inspiration in unusual places. He’s looked to porcupines’ barbed quills and the sticky pads of geckos’ feet to develop medical adhesives.

He and his team developed an adhesive device that consists of a sheet of microneedles whose tips swell upon contact with water, which could be used to adhere skin grafts to wounds, deliver drugs to target tissues, and for many other potential applications.

Karp and colleagues will now test the device in live pigs and then eventually in humans. They are also working on developing swellable microneedle adhesives that can dissolve inside the body for use by surgeons repairing the intestine and other internal tissues. These internal adhesives could replace sutures, which are hard to tie in confined spaces. (Source: http://www.karplab.net/news)