Surgeons across the world are about to discover that their job just became easier thanks to the help of a medical breakthrough that’s being pioneered with the assistance of some helpful porcupines. The infamously anti-social creatures, equipped with spiky quills across their body to deter predators, are being studied by medical researchers who think their prickly barbs could help produce next-generation medical staples.

Surgical staples are currently relied upon by medical professionals, for closing wounds, as they’re faster than sutures which require a needle and thread.

Bioengineers reportedly believe that they can take inspiration from porcupine quills, which are naturally hard to remove once they stick to your skin, and design next-generation medical staples that allow surgeons to quickly yet firmly close a wound until it heals.

In an interview with NPR, bioengineer Jeff Karp noted that human specialists are sometimes outdone by mother nature when explaining why researchers were relying on animals in the pursuit of medical breakthroughs.

"Nature has designs that humans can't achieve yet, at least at large scale," Karp told NPR.

"Large-scale manufacturing is a human problem."

Researchers believe that human testing of porcupine-inspired medical tools could begin in two to five years. The increased precision offered to surgeons would enable them to cut down on mistakes when operating, and scalable medical tools based on the porcupine’s natural defenses could help lower the costs associated with the widespread production of new medical tools.

The quill-inspired medical staples are particularly exciting for their capacity to fight back against infection, Karp noted, as current medical staples are effective at closing wounds but can trap harmful bacteria in the body in the process.

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The new, porcupine-inspired staples will also be biodegradable, meaning they’ll disappear over time instead of needing to be removed.

Quill-like medical staples that reduce the risk of infection while making surgery less invasive are only one example of how medical researchers have relied upon animals. UCLA cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz explored the topic of animal-inspired medical inventions in her book Zoobiquity, which examined the combination of veterinary science and human medicine.

In an interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Natterson-Horowitz elaborated on how research into canine melanoma helped produce a vaccine for melanoma in humans. In the past, animal testing has also been used for a wide variety of clinical research trials, though the practice of animal testing on skin care remains highly controversial.

“No matter what problem I encounter in a human patient, I immediately think about other animals with the same diseases,” Natterson-Horowitz told the Smithsonian.

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