One of nature’s wonder materials, spider silk is more elastic than nylon, finer than a human hair, and tougher than steel for its weight. Spiders use the remarkable natural protein to spin webs and nests, and they also use the fine threads to glide through the air and avoid predators. Now, science is attempting to use the benefits of Spider Silk to transport medications and repair our bodies. Raw spider silk has long been used for its therapeutic properties. Before using balled-up spider webs to stop the bleeding, ancient Greeks and Romans treated wounds with honey and vinegar.
Although the use of synthetic Spider Silk as a bioactive substance for drug delivery and tissue regeneration is still a relatively unexplored idea, it has the potential to revolutionize engineering, textiles, and aircraft manufacturing. Due to its characteristics, synthetic silk may be made to be both strong and flexible, making it suitable for use in artificial ligaments, surgical sutures, and cell scaffolds for tissue healing.
It’s challenging to produce enough silk for human medicine, though. Due to their cannibalistic nature, spiders cannot be raised in the same way that silkworms are. Consequently, one company produces spider silk using genetically modified silkworms. To create a more elastic but weaker silk fiber, another study team spliced spider genes into E. coli bacteria.
About Spin and Weave
Another obstacle in the way of making synthetic Spider Silk is spinning. Depending on the glands they use and how they spin it, spiders can manufacture up to seven different varieties on their own. The manipulation of silks using microfluidic systems, the blending of chemicals using wet-spinning to produce silk polymers, and the employment of an electric charge to draw out silk threads are examples of human attempts to mimic these processes.
Silk polymers may not be suitable for use in medical devices due to harsh chemicals used in these processes. However, a team from a Swedish university has developed bioactive silk proteins by depositing droplets on top of microscopic silicon pillars to create three distinct types – nanowires for use in cancer treatment, coverings to detect biomarkers, and sheets for utilize in scaffolds to promote cell growth.
The Role of Spider Web in Biomedicals
The specialized epithelial cells found encircling the glans of several types of insects produce silk, a fibrous protein. In addition to various members of the Arachnida class of animals, which includes more than 30,000 different species of spiders, worms of the order Lepidoptera, which includes creatures like mites, butterflies, and moths, are among the most frequent suppliers of silk.
The physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of a given Spider Silk material vary depending on the species from which the material was derived, even though the term “silk” is a universal one used to designate any type of protein fiber spun by insects. The tightly packed β-sheets that make up silk fibroin polymers are used in nature to enable the development of webs, nests, safety lines, cocoons, and traps as well as to protect eggs.