Exotic Super Spider Silk: Now Can be Produced at Large Scale!
October 4, 2010 4 Comments
Biologists may have one-upped Spiderman, genetically modifying silkworms to produce spider silk with properties similar to natural spider web, a stunning achievement with vast potential medical and textile use. Recent research highlights the process that can be used for industrial production of fibres that until now could only be produced in laboratories in tiny quantities. Macolm Fraser, associate scientist said:
This research represents a significant breakthrough in the development of superior silk fibers for both medical and non-medical applications.
[Image Details: This metre-wide Darwin’s bark spider web found recently in Madagascar is said to be one of the biggest, strongest spider webs ever discovered. Scientists are now working on ways to usespider silk in bulletproof vests and athletic clothing. Credit: Matjaz Kuntner]
More Tensile, Elastic than Natural Silk
The generation of silk fibres having the properties of spider silks has been one of the important goals in materials science. That is because natural spider silks have unusual physical properties, such as much higher tensile strength and elasticity than natural silk fibres. And artificial spider silks produced by these transgenic silkworms have similar properties strength and flexibility to natural spider webbing, said the scientists who announced the development at Notre Dame in Indiana.
Bulletproof vests made of spider silk
Previously only tiny amounts of spider silks had been made in labs. But this development opens the door to viable large-scale production. Among the potential biomedical uses of the fibres: “fine suture materials, improved wound healing bandages, or natural scaffolds for tendon and ligamentrepair or replacement,” the scientists said in a statement.”Spider silk-like fibres may also have applications beyond biomedical uses, such as in bulletproof vests, strong and lightweight structural fabrics, a new generation athletic clothing and improved automobile airbags.
Silkworm and spider a winning combination
When the transgenic silkworms spin their cocoons, they aren’t making silk or spider silks, the scientists explained. Silk produced is not ordinary silkworm silk, but, rather, a combination of silkworm silk andspider silk. The genetically engineered silk protein produced by the transgenic silkworms has markedly improved elasticity and strength approaching that of native spider silk.
Remarks: I find it extremely useful in developing highly developed robotic exploration probes which can be sent to mars and other planets. A kind of highly developed terrestrial pathfinder could be build using it. Since spider silk is far better than commonaly used fibre both in tensile strength and machining properties that’s why it could be a better replacement of generally used fibres. The great advantage would be that such explorer would be very light weight mean would require less force to overhail any problem which are more often in rocky planets like mars. An insectoid design utilizing MEMS(Micro ElectroMechanical Systems) would be the best even when exploration mission is sent to titan. Due to surface tension of methane seas of titan(as some of insect can walk over surface of water) , these tiny explorers would be able to explore and detect alien life.
[News Credit: Kraig Biocraft Laboratories Biotechnology and CosmosMagazine]