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News Link • Inventions

Large quantities of synthetic spider silk spun on demand

•, Colin Jeffrey

 Unfortunately, spiders individually produce only small amounts of silk and wrangling enough of them into spooling out commercial quantities is nigh on impossible. Now a new prototype process that mimics the natural spinning process has been created, using bacteria and spider silk proteins to create large quantities of artificial web threads on demand.

Normally stockpiled as a watery solution in the silk glands of a spider, silk is made up of a number of proteins that solidify when spun into a fiber outside the body of the arachnid. The pH gradient found in these silk glands also affects individual segments of the proteins they contain to ensure that the fiber is formed quickly and consistently in exactly the right place. 

Researchers Anna Rising, Jan Johansson, and Marlene Andersson working at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and at Karolinska Institutet took advantage of this knowledge to help create an artificial spider silk protein in bacteria that can then be bred en masse to produce industrial quantities of web material.

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