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Creation Ministries International

Spiny parasite worm inspires surgical tape

worm

When people have much skin damage, e.g. through burns or infection, sometimes this skin can be surgically replaced by transplanting or grafting other skin in its place. But one problem is keeping the graft in place, especially when the wound surface is wet.

Chemical glues can cause inflammation, and stapling can damage tissues and increase the risk of infection.

But a tiny worm, Pomphorhynchus laevis, that lives in fish intestines, has inspired a medical research team with a solution.

surgical tape

This worm has a spiny proboscis (elongated mouthpart) that it inflates, embedding tiny needles into the intestine wall. Now this has led to a "remarkable invention" by medical researchers in Massachusetts—a surgical patch based on the proboscis structure. The patch has an array of tiny needles, only 700 µm high—1 inch = 25,400 µm. The needles have a stiff core of polystyrene, but are coated with hydrogel, a material in disposable diapers that expands when it gets wet. So these needles likewise expand and anchor the patch in place, 3.5 times more strongly than staples.

One researcher said, "The unique design allows the needles to stick to soft tissues with minimal damage. Moreover, when it comes time to remove the adhesive, as opposed to staples, there is less trauma inflicted to the tissue, blood and nerves, as well as a reduced risk of infection."

So if the copy was designed ingeniously, then what does it say about the Designer of the original? Clearly it didn't come about by happenstance.

  • A bio-inspired swellable microneedle adhesive for mechanical interlocking with tissue, Nature Communications 4(1702) 16 April 2013 | doi:10.1038/ncomms2715.
  • Spiny worm solves thorny problem, news24.com, 16 April 2013.
  • ScienceShot: Parasite Inspires Surgical Patch, news.sciencemag.org, 16 April 2013.
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