Medical researchers have come up with a novel way to stiffen the spider silk – using glass. The discovery could make it easier to grow replacement parts for human bodies by improving the silk scaffolds on which human cells are grown. Spider silk is stiffened by reinforcing it with the same microscopic glass beads that single-celled marine algae (called diatoms) use to reinforce their protein shells. To fuse silk and glass, the engineers combined a silk gene from the golden orb-weaver spider (Nephila clavipes) with a gene for a peptide called R5 that encourages the formation of silica beads in the shells of diatoms.
The engineers inserted the resulting combination gene into bacterial cells, which then produced a “chimeric” protein that had the properties of silk married with the unique chemistry of R5.
Now the team is trying to fuse silk genes with genes for proteins that capture other minerals, such as hydroxyaptite, which is found in human bone.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.