Interdisciplinary work has resulted in a functionalized, artificial, antibiotic spider silk using E. coli bacteria. Scientists at Nottingham University in the U.K. have utilized a concept called “click chemistry” to synthesize the spider silk.
Prof. Neil Thomas of the School of Chemistry collaborated with life scientist Dr. Sara Goodacre and her team in the research. Recombinant silk fibers functionalized with levofloxacin were able to retain their antibacterial activity by slow release for up to five days after functionalization.
According to Prof. Thomas, the biocompatible fibers could be used in tissue engineering and biomedicine. The structure serves as scaffolds for cell growth and provides antimicrobial properties due to the presence of antibacterial agents, by slow release mechanism.
A chance meeting between chemists and scientists from SpiderLab resulted in antibiotic recombinant silk fibers, using this technique. The work involved the synthesis of silk protein in a bacterium, where an amino acid not found in protein was added. This amino acid has an azide group, which helps with the “click” reaction, resulting in the functionalized artificial silk.
The research was funded by the U.K.’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and has appeared in a recent issue of the online journal Advanced Materials.
Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar, Ph.D, FTA (honorary), is a professor at the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech.