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Man-made Spider Silk

Spider silk proteins and methods for producing spider silk proteins

Dragline silk is the toughest kind of spider silk. By weight, it is tougher than Kevlar, which is used in bulletproof vests. But researchers have trouble spinning silk proteins into usable material. Patent no. 8,278,416 details two modified spider silk proteins and describes how they can be coaxed to self-assemble. The resulting material is nontoxic, biodegradable, as well as “strong and elastic like natural silk,” says My Hedhammar of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and director of R&D at Spiber Technologies in Uppsala. Hedhammar and her colleagues synthesized the proteins by shortening the sequence of genes found in the spiders and inserting it into the bacterium Escherichia coli, which then produced large quantities of the proteins.
The finished fibers are strong and can be woven, spun, twisted or even crocheted into a silk-like material. Future applications could include wound dressing and tissue scaffolds for regenerative medicine.

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