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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

Bacteria learn to mass produce spider's silk

•, Travis Andrews
That’s changed, as we can now commercially produce spider’s silk. AMSilk has figurted out how to do it without having a billion black widows running around some horrible barn. That wouldn’t work anyway, since spiders are cannibalistic and angry creatures. They’d eat each other before creating enough silk to make a nice shirt, much less a bulletproof vest. Instead, the company uses something that’s almost equally horrifying: the bacteria E. coli! That’s right, AMSilk uses the bacteria known for horrible food poisoning to create a material that's useful for all sorts of things.
Researchers genetically modified E. coli, crossing it with European garden cross spider DNA, so the bacteria would create four different varieties of silk in 20 different grades. I hope this doesn’t creep you out too much, because the company has already been selling it to shampoo and cosmetic companies for integration into the products. This isn’t as strange as it sounds: silk is a sought-after commodity for a number of reasons, mostly its strength and durability. It’s just best not to think about where it’s born.

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