spider silk It is one of the most sustainable materials that exist. It is enough just to see how great the sequence of traps with which these arachnids catch their victims is. However, it is quite difficult to obtain it on an industrial scale for a simple reason. Spiders eat each other. The same doesn’t happen with silkwormswho live together in peace and harmony, creating their delicate fabrics. Therefore, recently a group of scientists from Donghua UniversityIn China, he had an idea: what if he could mix the best of each house and get the worms to make spider silk?

Guided by this idea, they decided to create transgenic wormscapable of producing super resistant spider silk. Much more than the material from which cars are usually made. body armor.

Thanks to this study, which was just published in mattergenetic engineering and materials science go hand in hand with development Eco-friendly spider silk, cheap and easy to mass produce. It’s just a pilot test for now, but who knows? In the future, bulletproof vests could be made from spider silk woven by a group of worm workers. What company.

Why is spider silk so beneficial?

When looking for sustainable materials, there are two properties to consider. practically necessary. One of them is tensile strength. Or, which is the same thing, the stress it can withstand when stretched without breaking. And the other one is perseverance, which means the mechanical stress it can withstand without breaking. Many materials with large numbers of these parameters are synthesized artificially.

For example, he Kevlarused for the manufacture of body armor, has great tensile strength and nylon incredible durability. However, its synthesis is expensive and irrational. And, on the other hand, improving one property means sacrificing another. In other words, it is difficult to obtain a material that is very resistant to stretching and also very strong. To enhance one property, you will have to lose part of another.

But spider silk does have these two properties. Actually it’s Stronger than Kevlar and stronger than nylon. We just had to solve the problem that when large numbers of spiders were harvested to produce silk on an industrial scale, they would eat each other, like some kind of arachnid hunger game. This is where genetic engineering comes into play and produces incredible results.

Spider silk is usually impossible to produce commercially because the spiders eat each other. Photo: George Rozema (Unsplash)

Genetic engineering to produce supermaterials

The tool used by the authors of this study to obtain spider silk on an industrial scale was CRISPR-Cas9.

It has become very popular in recent years, especially after two of its developers Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentierreceived the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020. The method is based on the protective mechanism of archaebacteria discovered by the Spaniards. Francis Mojicaacts as a kind of molecular short glue.

That is, you can cut out part genetic sequence organism and replace it with another. Thus, some properties are excluded and others are added that interest us for one reason or another.

In the case of worms, the genes responsible for the synthesis of their own silk were eliminated and replaced by others that would be expressed in glandular cellsso they can make spider silk. In short, the worm gene was removed and replaced with the spider gene so that the former could produce silk for the latter.

Spider silk obtained from worms turned out to be 6 times stronger than Kevlar. Therefore, it can be considered as a material for making body armor in the future. Who was going to tell us when we were kids raising silkworms in shoeboxes?

Source: Hiper Textual

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