Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




TECH SPACE
Arachnid Rapunzel: Researchers spin spider silk proteins into artificial silk
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 17, 2015


Incredibly tough, slightly stretchy spider silk is a lightweight, biodegradable wonder material with numerous potential biomedical applications. But although humans have been colonizing relatively placid silkworms for thousands of years, harvesting silk from territorial and sometimes cannibalistic spiders has proven impractical. Instead, labs hoping to harness spider silk's mechanical properties are using its molecular structure as a template for their own biomimetic silks. Image courtesy Jan K. Rainey.

Incredibly tough, slightly stretchy spider silk is a lightweight, biodegradable wonder material with numerous potential biomedical applications. But although humans have been colonizing relatively placid silkworms for thousands of years, harvesting silk from territorial and sometimes cannibalistic spiders has proven impractical. Instead, labs hoping to harness spider silk's mechanical properties are using its molecular structure as a template for their own biomimetic silks.

A team of researchers from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia is focusing on the toughest of the spider's seven types of silk--aciniform silk, used to wrap up prey that blunders into its web.

Over the past few years, they have gradually unraveled its protein architecture and begun to understand the connection between its structure and function. They will present their latest findings at the 59th meeting of the Biophysical Society, held Feb. 7-11 in Baltimore, Md.

The first step in creating artificial spider silk is to replicate the proteins that make up the natural version, in this case by recombinantly expressing them in E. coli. The key protein in aciniform silk, AcSp1, has three parts. Most of the protein is a repeated sequence of about two hundred amino acids. Two tails called the N- and C-terminal domains hang off each end of the protein chain.

Jan Rainey's group at Dalhousie University used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to analyze the structure of AcSp1's repeat sequence at very high resolution, producing one of the first spider silk repeat unit structure sequences to be reported. When they then linked more repeats together, they learned that the repeat units behaved in a modular fashion.

That is, each one acted as an individual unit, instead of taking on new structure by being connected to other units. Such modularity has important consequences: it means that scientists trying to engineer artificial silk proteins can vary the length of the protein without sacrificing the entire protein's function. Plus, it means that researchers can focus on optimizing smaller, more manageable protein components before linking them together to form a large functional protein.

The next step in creating artificial silk is to spin the proteins into long strands. Spiders have specialized equipment to accomplish this task, but finding the precise laboratory conditions that recreate this process is one of the biggest challenges of creating biomimetic silks. At least for the moment, spiders are more skillful spinners than humans.

However, the researchers have found a clue to the fiber formation process in the c-terminal domain.

They determined that although in some cases silk proteins can link into fibers without the c-terminal domain, the region in general helped with fiber formation - fibers made of proteins with c-terminal domains tended to be tougher and stronger.

In addition, the researchers found replacing the aciniform silk c-terminal domains with c-terminal domains from other types of spider silk also improved fiber formation. The findings suggested that the c-terminal domain could potentially be manipulated to adjust the strength and toughness of the fibers.

"Now we know that C-terminal domains are interchangeable," said researcher Lingling Xu. "This could be useful when we encounter expression problems while producing recombinant spidroins. For example, we could choose a C-terminal domain that has a better protein expression level, solubility or stability."

Artificial spider silk remains far from commercially viable, but advances in understanding of the relationship between spider silk's structure and its function are helping scientists inch closer to creating an alternative in the lab.

"Our future goal is to synthesize fibers with tunable mechanical properties based on our knowledge of the role of each domain," said Xu.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Biophysical Society
Space Technology News - Applications and Research






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





TECH SPACE
Lower-cost metal 3-D printing solution available
New Rochelle NY (SPX) Feb 15, 2015
3D printing of plastic parts to prototype or manufacture goods is becoming commonplace in industry, but there is an urgent need for lower-cost 3D printing technology to produce metal parts. New substrate release solutions that offer easy, less expensive alternatives to aluminum parts removal during gas metal arc weld 3D printing are described in an article in 3D Printing and Additive Manuf ... read more


TECH SPACE
Application of laser microprobe technology to Apollo samples refines lunar impact history

NASA releases video of the far side of the Moon

US Issuing Licenses for Mineral Mining on Moon

LRO finds lunar hydrogen more abundant on Moon's pole-facing slopes

TECH SPACE
The highest plume ever observed on Mars

Mars One cuts list of potential colonists to 100

Mystery Mars plume baffles scientists

Up, Up and Away! First Humans Chosen for Mission to Mars

TECH SPACE
The ISS Menu: Mayo, Espressos, Booze? Cosmonauts Reveal Their Secrets

Sensors Detect Icing Conditions to Help Protect Airplanes

Industry: Risk aversion costs more than 'fast failure'

Boeing's Space Efforts to Be Managed by Newly Created Organization

TECH SPACE
More Astronauts for China

China launches the FY-2 08 meteorological satellite successfully

China's Long March puts satellite in orbit on 200th launch

Countdown to China's new space programs begins

TECH SPACE
Spacesuit woes haunt NASA ahead of crucial spacewalks

Russia Launches Fresh Fruit, Oxygen to Crew on ISS

Space Station 3-D Printed Items, Seedlings Return in the Belly of a Dragon

NASA preparing to reassemble International Space Station

TECH SPACE
Moog offers "SoftRide" for enhanced spacecraft protection during launch

Russian-Ukrainian Satan Rocket to Launch South Korean Satellite as Planned

Leaders share messages, priorities at AFA Symposium

Soyuz Installed at Baikonur, Expected to Launch Wednesday

TECH SPACE
Laser 'ruler' holds promise for hunting exoplanets

The mystery of cosmic oceans and dunes

Scientists predict earth-like planets around most stars

"Vulcan Planets" - Inside-Out Formation of Super-Earths

TECH SPACE
Arachnid Rapunzel: Researchers spin spider silk proteins into artificial silk

Breakthrough may lead to industrial production of graphene devices

New design tool for metamaterials

New self-stretching material developed at University of Rochester




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.