Chinese scientists Spider silk synthesized for the first time from genetically modified silkwormsThus, fibers six times stronger than Kevlar, used in bulletproof vests, are produced. The discovery opens broad perspectives for the production of new and particularly durable materials.
The study, recently published in the journal Matter, is the first to successfully produce full-length spider silk proteins using silkworms. The discovery reveals something Technique that could be used to create an environmentally friendly alternative to commercial synthetic fibers such as nylon.
“Worm silk is currently the only animal silk fiber commercialized on a large scale through well-established cultivation techniques,” Mi said. “Consequently, the use of genetically modified silkworms to produce spider silk fiber enables large-scale, low-cost marketing“.
Sustainable alternative to pollutants
Scientists find spider silk attractive sustainable alternative to synthetic fibersThese are plastics produced from fossil fuels that can release harmful microplastics into the environment and often cause greenhouse gas emissions. However, turning to nature for alternatives is not without its challenges.
Previously developed processes for spinning artificial spider silk had trouble applying a surface layer of glycoproteins and lipids to silk to help it resist moisture and exposure to sunlight, an anti-aging “skin coat” that spiders apply to their webs.
Genetically modified silkworms offer a solution to this problemsays Mi, because worms cover their own fibers with a similar protective layer.
“Spider silk is a strategic resource that needs to be urgently explored,” said the study’s first author, Junpeng Mi of Donghua University.
Multiple practical applications
“The extraordinarily high mechanical performance of the fibers produced in this study is very promising in this field. Such fibers Can be used as surgical sutures“It addresses global demand exceeding 300 million procedures per year.”
Spider silk fibers can also be used to create more comfortable clothing and innovative types of clothing. Mi says bulletproof vests could have applications in smart materials, military, aerospace technology and biomedical engineering.
To obtain spider silk from silkworms, Mi and his team inserted spider silk protein genes into the silkworms’ DNA, enabling these proteins to be expressed in their glands using a combination of CRISPR gene editing technology. -Cas9 and microinjection of hundreds of thousands of eggs into fertilized silkworms.
Mi said microinjections posed “one of the biggest challenges” of the study, but he was delighted when he saw the silkworms’ eyes glow red under a fluorescent microscope, a clear sign that the gene editing had been successful. Happiest moments as a scientist.
The researchers also needed to make “localization” modifications to the transgenic spider silk proteins so they would properly interact with proteins in the silkworm glands and allow the fiber to bend correctly. To guide the changes, the team developed a “minimal basic structure model” of worm silk.
“This concept of ‘localization’ introduced in this thesis, together with the proposed minimal structural model, represents a significant change over previous research,” says Mi. ““We believe large-scale commercialization is on the horizon.”
In the future, Mi plans to use the information about the durability and strength of spider silk fibers developed in the current study to develop genetically modified silkworms that produce spider silk fibers from both natural and genetically modified amino acids.
According to Mi, “The addition of more than a hundred engineered amino acids provides unlimited potential for spider silk fibers.”
Reference work: https://www.cell.com/matter/fulltext/S2590-2385(23)00421-6
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