Scientists say they can produce spider silk in lab

Reseachers said on January 9, 2017, they were able to produce spider silk artificially and "without end" AFP

PARIS —

Supple, light and biodegradable but stronger than steel: researchers say they have succeeded in producing synthetic spider silk, one of nature’s strongest materials.

Refined through the long process of evolution, the silk threads spun by spiders are 30 times thinner than a human hair and stronger even than Kevlar, a synthetic fibre used in making bullet-proof vests.

Scientists have long strived to copy the unique properties of the threads—essentially long chains of linked protein molecules.

When spinning, the spider secretes a protein solution through a narrow duct, along which the acidity changes and pressure increases, causing the molecules to link up and form chains.

But spiders are notoriously difficult to farm—producing small quantities of silk, and with a propensity for eating each other.

Now a team from Sweden said they have managed to copy the spider’s feat using proteins in E.coli bacteria and a “spinning apparatus” which mimics the pH changes that spiders use to make silk.

“This allowed us for the first time to spin artificial spider silk without using harsh chemicals,” study co-author Jan Johansson of the Swedish University of Agriculture Sciences in Uppsala told AFP.

“The high amounts of proteins produced in bacteria allow us to spin a kilometre of the biomimetic fibres from just one litre of E.coli culture.”

The threads are bio-compatible and may prove useful in regenerative medicine, the team said.

They may be used, Johansson said, for spinal cord repair or in growing stem cells to repair damaged hearts.

The invention may also be useful in the textile industry—to make even lighter and stronger body protection, for example.

The study was published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

© 2017 AFP

  • 5

    Moonraker

    Sounds promising. The uses for such a material are endless.

  • 3

    Stephen Knight

    Kazuhide Sekiyama and his fellow scientists at Spiber Inc. have been working successfully on a similar effort for several years now...

    https://www.spiber.jp/en/endeavor

  • 2

    wtfjapan

    first artificial silk fiber made of recombinant spider silk proteins, the process of which was started in 2010 by Professor Horst Kessler, Institute for Advanced Study at the TU Muenchen, they also own many of the patents for those techniques

  • 1

    MsDelicious

    I bet the Pentagon has its own ideas.

  • 0

    Dre Hund

    Next time you hear a tiny squeaky voice saying "Help me.....help me"......it could be you.

  • 0

    Dennis Bauer

    Professor Peter Parker? ;)

  • 0

    1glenn

    Someday, we may see factories in orbit making space vehicles out of this material. If the price can be lowered enough, we might eventually see airplanes, cars, ships, and trains made from artificial spider silk.

  • 0

    Cliffy

    Spider man, Spider man, does whatever a spider can.....

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