Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spider Silk With Silk Worms

This is a worthy effort and it appears we will soon have spider silk in commercial volumes to work with.  Medical applications are obvious, but whenever a new material becomes readily available, applications mushroom.   And yes a woven line is an obvious application with plenty of utility.

Certainly the commercial silk industry is well established and is ready to introduce a new product in high volume.  We do not have to invent that also.

We can expect fabrics rather quickly and their abilities will be interesting to observe.

Spider-silk-producing silkworms to be commercially developed

11:18 April 13, 2011

Biotech firm Sigma Life Science plans on developing genetically-modified silkworms, that will produce spider silk for use in commercial applications

(Photo: Fastily)

Although cobwebs may seem very fragile when we see people like Indiana Jones crashing through them, the fact is that spider silk is an incredibly strong and flexible material. It has a tensile strength similar to that of high-grade steel while only being one-fifth as dense, it can stretch up to 1.4 times its relaxed length without breaking, and it can maintain those properties down to a temperature of -40C (-40F). Given that spiders don't secrete huge quantities of the stuff on a daily basis, however, what's a biotech firm to do if it wishes to harvest the fibers for use in human technology? In the case of Sigma Life Science, it's getting genetically-modified silkworms to spin spider silk.

Sigma has partnered with Kraig Biocraft Laboratories (KBLB) to develop the silkworms, using Sigma's proprietary CompoZr Zinc Finger Nuclease (ZFN) technology.

Last year, KBLB successfully created hybrid silkworms with randomly inserted spider genes. The creatures secreted hybrid "spidersilkworm" silk, that was stronger and more durable than silk from regular silkworms, but still not as strong as spider silk.

Utilizing the claimed precise gene targeting and high efficiency of the ZFN process,KBLB and Sigma now plan on inserting spider silk genes into the silkworm genome, while simultaneously removing the native silkworm silk genes. The result, the companies hope, will be transgenic silkworms that produce pure spider silk "at commercially viable production levels."

The material may be used in applications such as sutures, tendon and ligament repair, bulletproof vests, and automobile airbags.

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