Researchers have managed to create, for the first time, artificial silk in a process which resembles the spiders’ natural spinning process.
Spider silk is one of the most analyzed natural products. Scientists have been trying, for quite some time, to replicate its properties. Natural silk is very strong, very light, and extremely thin.
Previous researchers have managed to create similar products. Most took to advancing the spider’s natural properties. Other developed a stronger silk.
Now, a team of scientists went to develop artificial silk. The research team comes from two Swedish institutes. One is the Karolinska Institutet. Another is the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Research on the matter was released earlier this week. It was published in the Nature Chemical Biology journal. The study was released on January 09 and was titled as follows. “Biomimetic spinning of artificial spider silk from a chimeric minispidroin”.
Spider silk has many, varied uses. It can be used in medicine for sutures, amongst others. Or for making clothes, including potentially bullet-proof ones.
It can be the base for anything from violin strings to biodegradable bottles. Its many uses are based on its properties. However, spiders are only able to spin a limited amount of silk.
Now, the Swedish researchers may have solved this issue. They have developed a biomimetic spinning process. This can imitate the natural spinning action. And its artificial silk is similar to its natural counterpart.
Researchers were looking for ways to mass produce silk. Any such large-scale process would involve various facts. Artificial silk proteins are one such factor. Spinning processes are another.
Spider silk is produced by a water-based solution. Made out of proteins, this solution is stored in special spider glands. Its end result is spun by the spider into a fiber. Until now, scientists have been unable to replicate the water-based proteins.
But this new, artificial silk has achieved this feat. The researchers have managed to develop an artificial protein. This works as a base for the new spinning method.
The artificial protein has similar properties to the original. For example, it is just as soluble. As such, it can be kept soluble even at extreme concentrations. Dr. Anna Rising, one of the study leads, went to offer details.
According to her, silk glands have quite an impressive pH gradient. pH denotes a substance’s acidity. The higher the pH, the less acidic final product.
The spider pH gradient is well regulated. As such, it affects only specific parts of the silk proteins. This ensures that the fibers form according to certain factors. Its place in the production apparatus is one such fact. The spinning speed is another.
This information was the base for the artificial silk protein. The knowledge helped scientist design the new product. They determined that it could be produced on a large scale in bacteria.
As such, their artificial silk could come to have a mass production. The spider spinning process was also taken into account. Besides a protein, researchers also developed such a system.
The spinning device is said to be very simple, but effective. It is reportedly able to spin miles-long artificial silk fibers. This process can be attained by a lowering of the pH levels. The current process is the as yet first successful biomimetic silk spinning example.
Its results were also quite satisfactory. However, the artificial silk still is a bit weaker when compared to the original. It is not as strong as the natural product. It also is less resistant.
Nonetheless, these properties can be adjusted. The researchers will be looking to tweak the needed elements. As such, the artificial silk could come to be just as effective and useful as the spider produced one.
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