Spider Silk Is Produced Artificially for First Time

Being able to produce artificial spider silk has long been a dream of many scientists, but all attempts have, until now, involved harsh chemicals and have resulted in fibers of limited use. Now, a team of researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Karolinska Institutet has, step by step, developed a method that works. Today they report that they can produce kilometer-long threads that for the first time resemble real spider silk. The results were published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. Spider silk is an attractive material–-it is well tolerated when implanted in tissues, it is light-weight but stronger than steel, and it is also biodegradable. However, spiders are difficult to keep in captivity and they spin small amounts of silk. Therefore, any large-scale production must involve the use of artificial silk proteins and spinning processes. A biomimetic spinning process (that mimics nature) is probably the best way to manufacture fibers that resemble real spider silk. Until now, this has not been possible because of difficulties to obtain water soluble spider silk proteins from bacteria and other production systems, and therefore strong solvents has been used in previously described spinning processes. Spider silk is made of proteins that are stored as an aqueous solution in the silk glands, before being spun into a fiber. Researcher Dr. Anna Rising (shown at left with Dr. Johansson) and her colleagues Dr. Jan Johansson and Dr.
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