Spider silk for medical purposes
Another example of an innovative, new bio-based fibre material comes from bionics research and takes inspiration from spiders. The fibres and webs naturally produced by spiders are uniquely stable and elastic at the same time. Relative to its extremely fine structure, spider silk is strong as steel and elastic like rubber. For years scientists have tried to solve the riddle of spider silk and recreate it industrially. Now AMSilk AG and Professor Thomas Scheibel from the University of Bayreuth have succeeded in doing just that. Based on a traditional fermentation process and using genetically manipulated bacteria it is possible for the first time to produce any quantity of spider silk proteins for a wide range of applications. Although research is still ongoing into the industrial production of threads using spider silk proteins, the manufacture of raw material in ball, membrane, film and foil form is already possible. For example it is possible to produce a spider silk film and / or spider silk foil by means of a diluted silk solution. This innovative production technology makes it possible to adapt and control the form of silk proteins as required and opens up use of the first silk products in industry and technology.
Human tolerance to spider silk proteins is very good making it conceivable to use them for cosmetics, medical implants and suture material. At the Hannover Medical School (MHH) investigations are also being carried out into using the silk from the golden orb-weaver spiders of Tanzania to grow artificial skin. In this programme AMSilk is using 24-well cell culture plates that selectively have been given a thin silk coating or contain an open pore foam matrix of spider silk. In addition limited numbers of 24-well plates are available with inserts made from spider silk non-wovens. Since February 2013 AMSilk has been offering all research kits with a research licence included. Professor Thomas Scheibel explains: “The technology platform we have developed is the first time in the world it has been possible to establish products on the basis of spider silk proteins. It is conceivable that it will not be long before you find bio-tech spider silk products on the market.”
Background picture: Source – Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel/ Universität Bayreuth
I have often heard that the spider silk is used for making fabrics for clothes. I didn’t knew it can be used for medicinal purposes.I also work in spider silk firm and love to read about the new technologies.