Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Self-assembly of spider silk fiber via genetically engineered viruses

Scientists achieve self-assembly of spider silk fiber in insect cells
Via BoingBoing: Spider dragline silk, which is stronger than man-made fibers such as nylon or steel fiber of the same diameter, is impossible to farm (as is the silk from silkworms) because spiders are so territorial. After injecting the genes for making dragline silk proteins into an insect virus, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and from Germany infected cultures of cells from a caterpillar with the virus. The cells began to produce "spider fibers."

"The research enabled us to determine the close connection that exists between the sequence, structure and functions of the proteins," said Dr. Gat. "From a practical viewpoint, mass production of fibers, whose diameter is one-thousandth of a millimeter, is likely to be useful in the future for manufacture of bulletproof vests, surgical thread, micro-conductors, optical fibers and fishing rods; even new types of clothing may be envisioned."


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