Synthetic Spider Silk
Spider silk is about three times as strong and twice as elastic as silkworm silk but spider behaviour precludes its production by spiders in captivity. Dragline silk, the strongest spider silk, is one of seven types produced by orb-weaving spiders, is 25 times as tough as high-tensile steel and three times tougher than Kevlar, the strongest synthetic fiber ever made. The genes that encode the two dragline silk proteins (ADF3 and ADF4) were introduced into an insect-infecting baculovirus. These genetically engineered (recombinant) viruses were then used to infect tissue cultures of insect cells derived from the fall armyworm caterpillar, which produce large amounts of recombinant proteins. ADF-4-based micro-fibers were found to spontaneously self-assemble inside the insect cells and form fibers Our Innovation
Derivatives of sections of the dragline silk gene ADF4 of the cross-bearing garden spider (Araneus diadematus) were utilized to construct novel synthetic sequences . When recombinant viruses expressing the synthetic sequences were used to infect insect cells, never-before observed spontaneous self-assembly of dragline silk fibers occurred.
Novel synthetic sequence not used previously The spider silk is produced through in vitro tissue culture in fall armyworm insect cells infected by a recombinant baculovirus. Fibers self-assembled in the insect cells are currently too short to be used in conventional spinning processes. A simple purification protocol results in very clean recombinant dragline silk fibers Development Milestones
Production of longer synthetic spider silk fibers suitable for commercial applications Upscaling spider silk protein production to commercial scale The Opportunity
Tremendous market potential for high-strength, low-weight materials such as very tough, low weight bullet-proof vests, new type of reinforced fishing lines, parachute cord, and new types of textiles If cost-effective production only results in small quantities, it may be used as biodegradable surgical sutures for microsurgery and, by coating the microfibers with heavy metals, as microconductors for electronics applications.
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