Is spider silk capable of healing the human body?
Did you know that the strongest fibre is twice as strong as steel? Dragline silk is the strongest fibre in the world. 500 strands of this spider silk proved to be twice as strong as steel equivalent.
Despite the fact there are 7 types of spider silk, only one catches the attention of the researchers, and that is the dragline silk. So, where does the dragline silk come from? The toughest silk is from the Golden Orb-Weaving Spider. Dragline silk is present in the outer layer of the web and is tougher and more flexible than Kevlar and nylon while being thinner than hair. It is stronger than any man-made fibre and also elastic, making it the strongest material on planet Earth.
What makes this spider thread the toughest? This spider thread relies on two combined proteins, unlike most spider threads that rely on only one protein. Dragline silk is composed of a protein called fibroin, which is a combination of two proteins, namely spidroin 1 and spidroin 2. Fibroin contains 42 per cent glycine and 25 per cent alanine. As a result of this protein, silk becomes stronger.
Spider silk was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to heal the wounded whenever they fought. In this way, the wound would stop bleeding. In the 1800s, spider silk was used as a suture material for medical purposes.
Today, however, spider silk production has decreased because of the difficulties associated with farming spiders. According to research, these spiders have a tendency to kill each other when stored together on a farm.
Therefore, the researchers are trying to find other ways to produce the protein in spider threads without using spiders. Their goal was to find a cheap way to produce proteins. Randy Lewis, a molecular biologist, discovered how to transfer spider silk genes into goats/sheep. In this way, the goat's milk can be gathered and purified in order to get the spider silk protein. They found that the goats had no adverse reactions. Researchers are also attempting to introduce this gene into alfalfa plants.
A more efficient method was discovered through silkworms, which is still in use today. The researcher Yoshihiko Kuwana discovered that the gene can be transmitted from spiders to silkworms. Silkworms are able to produce silk on a larger scale than spiders.
How do they contribute to the body's functioning? This spider silk was considered for the invention of artificial ligaments and tendons that are stronger than those made of man-made materials, but with the same diameter. Besides sutures, it is even used in eye surgeries, plastic surgeries, and neurosurgery.
Researchers have also experimented with connecting damaged nerves with spider threads. Spider silk is inserted between the nerves, resulting in nerve regeneration. It is being tested on sheep since the nerves of the sheep replicate those in humans. In the body, spider silk dissolves after it serves its purpose.
However, there are still some scepticisms regarding its use. As of yet, spider silk has not been approved for use in the medical industry.
What are your thoughts? Is it appropriate to use spider silk in medicine?