Spider silk has long been lauded as a Holy Grail among materials. Lightweight and durable, with a high tensile strength and impressive biocompatibility, this material's many advantages make it suitable for a broad range of applications. However, a number of issues, including limited yield and cannibalistic tendencies, make large-scale spider farming impractical.
In this proof of concept study, researchers have engineered photosynthetic bacteria to express the MaSp1 protein, a key component in spider dragline silk. Grown in a simple saline broth with few requirements beyond nitrogen gas and near infrared irradiation, it would appear that these bacteria offer an efficient system for generating the silk proteins. Promisingly, the bacterial fibers obtained were found to have highly similar structure to the natural spider fibers.
The researchers of this study are also hopeful that this platform would also be suitable for the production of other biocompounds. While in its infancy, this microbial factory could become the blueprint for an innovative new wave of green and sustainable solutions for material production.
“Spider silk has the potential to be used in the manufacture of high-performance and durable materials such as tear-resistant clothing, automobile parts, and aerospace components,” explains Choon Pin Foong, who conducted this study. “Its biocompatibility makes it safe for use in biomedical applications such as drug delivery systems, implant devices, and scaffolds for tissue engineering.”