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Researchers spin spider silk one kilometer long

January 18th, 2017 / By: / What's New?

Spider silk characteristics make it attractive for a wide variety of uses: It is stronger than steel, is tolerated well when implanted in tissue and it’s biodegradable. Harvesting the silk, however, has proven a hurdle. Spiders are difficult to keep captive, needless to say, and they produce small amounts of silk. Large-scale production requires artificial silk proteins and an effective spinning process.

A team of researchers led by Anna Rising from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Karolinska Institutet has developed a biomimetic (mimicking nature) spinning process to produce fibers that resemble real spider silk. They’ve constructed a simple, efficient biomimetic apparatus that can spin kilometer-long fibers.

The team’s research had revealed a specific pH gradient in the spider silk gland that ensures the silk fiber forms rapidly. The researchers applied this knowledge to a process that produces large quantities of spider silk protein in bacteria, making the process scalable. Because the new method creates water-soluble proteins, the system also avoids the use of solvents that were previously necessary in spinning processes.

The results were published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

Source: The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU