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Spinning miles of synthetic spider silk

By Gerald Ondrey |

An international team of scientists, led by senior researcher Anna Rising and professor Jan Johansson at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Karolinska Institute (both Stockholm, Sweden; www.slu.se and www.ki.se), has developed a process that makes it possible to spin kilometer-long fibers of a chimeric recombinant spider silk protein. The achievement — published in Nature Chemical Biology — is expected to pave the way for a number of applications that take advantage of spider silk, which is lightweight yet stronger than steel. It is well tolerated when implanted in tissue and is biodegradable. Prior to this, it had not been possible to make long threads of artificial spider silk in a biomimetic way due to the low solubility of the proteins in water. The process mimics the spinning mechanism of native spiders, which involves a pH gradient from 7.6 to less than 5.7 along the spider silk glands. The starting protein — a minispidroin composed of an NT (N-terminal domain) from E. australis MaSp1 and a CT (C-terminal domain) from A. ventricosus MiSp — is prepared in cultures of E. coli, producing 125 mg/L of protein (after purification). Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences[/caption] To biomimic the…
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