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Spiny Worm Inspires Next-Gen Band-Aid

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Drawing of a lemon-yellow segmented worm with a spiny head adjacent to a photo of a transparent spiny square resting on top of a fingertip

Caption: Artist rendition of spiny headed worm │The adhesive patch with microneedles that swell
Source: The Karp Lab, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Inspiration can come from some pretty strange sources. Case in point: a new adhesive Band-Aid inspired by Pomphorhynchus laevis, a spiny-headed worm that lives in the intestines of fish. The parasitic worm pokes its tiny, spiny, cactus shaped head through the intestinal lining and then inflates its head with fluid to stay anchored.

Using the same principle, the team at the Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital created an adhesive patch with needles that swell up when they get wet, interlocking with the tissue. When this sticky patch is applied to anchor skin grafts that have just been placed over an area of injury or burn, it is three times stronger than surgical staples—and it causes less damage to soft tissues. Because it penetrates about one fourth the depth of staples, it should also be less painful to remove.

Hmmm, doesn’t it make you wonder what creepy crawly will inspire the next medical technology? Cockroaches? Spiders?

Drawings of the stages of interlocking graph tissue with wounded tissue using this new spiny adhesive

Source: The Karp Lab


A bio-inspired swellable microneedle adhesive for mechanical interlocking with tissue. Yang SY, O’Cearbhaill ED, Sisk GC, Park KM, Cho WK, Villiger M, Bouma BE, Pomahac B, Karp JM. Nat Commun. 2013 Apr 16;4:1702.


Biomimicry: Inspired by Nature (See what else the Karp lab has developed)

NIH support: National Institute of General Medical Sciences


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