The golden orb-weaver spider from Tanzania spins such strong webs that Tanzanian fishermen use them for fishing. Their spider silk is more tear-resistant than nylon and four times more elastic than steel, is heat-stable up to 250° C, extremely waterproof and, on top of that, has antibacterial properties. These characteristics also make it attractive from the point of view of biomedical research. Initial studies conducted by Christine Radtke, new Professor for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, have shown in an animal model that the threads have great potential for nerve and tissue repair.
There is currently a great need for such techniques in plastic and reconstructive surgery, especially for so-called extensive nerve injuries of more than 5 cm in length in the peripheral nervous system – for example following a serious accident or after tumour resection. Apart from limited nerve grafts, doctors have only been able to use synthetic conduits (interposition graft), to reconnect severed nerves so that the nerve fibres can grow back together. “However, this only really works well over short distances of up to 4 cm, at most,” explains Radtke.
Radtke and her colleagues at the Medical University of Hannover, from whence the surgeon transferred to Vienna in October 2016, developed a new microsurgical technique that involves filling the veins with spider silk to form a longitudinal guide structure. “This acts almost like a rose trellis,” explains Radtke, who is continuing her research at MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital. “The nerve fibres use the silk fibres to grow along in order to reconnect with the other end of the nerve. The silk provides the cells with good adhesion, supports cell movement and encourages cell division.”
In an animal model, this technique successfully repaired nerve damage over distances of up to 6 cm: the nerve fibres grew back together in a functional way within 9 months. At the same time, the framework of spider threads, which is a natural substance, was completely broken down by the body. Equally, spider silk does not provoke a rejection reaction.
200 m of spider silk in max. 15 minutes
Radtke currently has 21 spiders – and hopes to increase this to 50. The spider threads are mechanically harvested, allowing up to 200 m of spider silk to be obtained within 15 minutes. On average, the spiders are “milked” once a week. This process does not harm the spider, which then receives an extra ration of cricket. Several hundred meters of silk are needed to bridge a 6-cm-long nerve injury.
Work is currently underway to certify spider silk as a medical device, so that it can also be used in clinical trials on humans. Once that has been done, there are other potential applications, says the surgeon: for example in orthopaedics for meniscus or ligament injuries or as a potential skin substitute for deep skin burns. It is possible that spider silk could also be used in future for other neurological diseases where cell transplantation plays a role.
The Latest on: Spider silk
- Peace Silk Secrets – A Vegan’s Critical Guide To Ethical Silk on June 13, 2019 at 5:15 am
Thanks to the latest technological developments of the 21st century, engineers have created a new material that feels and looks like silk, but it is a thousand times stronger. It is called spider silk ... […]
- Scientists Sequence Spider Glue Genes on June 13, 2019 at 4:16 am
Researchers have published the first-ever complete sequences of two genes that allow spiders to produce glue, a modified version of silk that keeps a spider’s prey stuck in its web. Spiders use a ... […]
- Kraig Biocraft Laboratories Management Travels to Vietnam to Oversee Prodigy Textiles Construction and Expansion on June 11, 2019 at 4:11 am
Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Inc. (KBLB) (“Company”), the leading developer of spider silk based fibers, announces today that a senior member of its leadership team is travelling to Vietnam to ... […]
- Watch: Ants Rip Spider Web Apart to Rescue Trapped Sibling on June 7, 2019 at 11:24 am
New research suggests that desert harvester ants (Veromessor pergandei) charge into spider webs to rescue their trapped siblings and nestmates that call for help, sometimes ripping the silk apart to ... […]
- First-ever spider glue genes sequenced, paving way to next biomaterials breakthrough on June 5, 2019 at 1:38 pm
Spider glue is a modified form of spider silk that keeps a spider's prey stuck in its web, and it could have applications in organic pest control and beyond. UMBC postdoctoral fellow Sarah Stellwagen ... […]
- Spider glue’s sticky secret revealed by new genetic research on June 5, 2019 at 7:03 am
What do all of the over 45,000 described spider species on Earth have in common? Each makes at least one type of silk. And there are an awful lot of types out there. An individual orb weaving ... […]
- Kraig produces next generation of spider silk on June 4, 2019 at 4:18 am
Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, a developer of spider silk-based fibres, has created the next generation of recombinant spider silk using its new design, gene editing, and incorporation approaches. This ... […]
- This spider accelerates faster than a rocket on May 13, 2019 at 7:59 pm
When a bug bumps into the web, the spider let go of its anchor line and releases slack from its abdomen, catapulting its web (and itself) forward and capturing the bug in silk. (See pictures of the ... […]
- Curious Kids: why is spider silk so easy to break when it’s supposedly stronger than steel? on May 3, 2019 at 8:05 am
Curious Kids is a series by The Conversation, which gives children of all ages the chance to have their questions about the world answered by experts. All questions are welcome: you or an adult can ... […]
- Scientists Engineer Spider Silk for Performance Apparel on April 19, 2019 at 9:32 am
“All natural” just got a bit more interesting. Companies Polartec, provider of sustainable textile solutions, and Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, a biotechnology company centered on the development and ... […]
via Google News and Bing News