Spider Man would be jealous. It cannot only produce spider silk. They produce incredibly strong and light threads, so-called draglines. They are made from silk proteins. They could be used to make a number of useful materials. The problem is getting enough protein: each spider can produce a small amount. That is why the spider silk produced in the laboratory offers new possibilities.
Silk for biomedical purposes
The study was published in “Communications Biology”. The research team is led by Keiji Numata from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS). He succeeded in producing spider silk with photosynthetic bacteria. It could usher in a new era in which photosynthetic bio-factories produce spider silk stably.
The silk from arthropod species is not only resistant and light, but also biodegradable and biocompatible. Spider silk is ultralight and as strong as steel. “It has the potential to be used in the manufacture of powerful and durable materials. For example, tearproof clothing, auto parts and aerospace components, ”explains Choon Pin Foong. He is another author of the study.
“Its biocompatibility is safe for use in biomedical applications and tissue engineering,” he says. The CSRS team focused on the photosynthetic marine bacterium ‘Rhodovulum sulfidophilum’. This bacterium is ideal for building a sustainable bio-factory because it grows in sea water. It needs carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the atmosphere and uses solar energy. All of this is abundant and inexhaustible.
The researchers genetically modified the bacteria to produce the MaSp1 protein. It is the main component of the silk of the spider type ‘Nephila’. It plays an important role in the resistance of the spider web. They optimized the sequence of the gene that they inserted into the bacterium’s genome to maximize the amount of silk that could be produced.
The fibers produced in bacteria were very similar to those naturally produced by spiders.
“Our current study shows the first proof of concept for the production of spider silk in photosynthetic bacteria. We are now working on mass-producing spider silk dragline proteins, ”says Numata.
“Photosynthetic microbial cell factories produce biodegradable and biodegradable materials through a climate-neutral bioprocess. They could help us achieve some of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example,” Responsible Production and Consumption “and” Climate Change ” .
“Spider silk made in the laboratory offers viable solutions to energy, water and food crises, solid waste problems and global warming,” concludes the researcher.