Spiders have always been a source of great fascination by all societies and civilizations. And there are good reasons for that. Not only the spider’s ability to neutralize its prey through very intricate and yet simple strategies, but also the ability of such a small animal to cause such damage to bigger species including our own.
But one characteristic of spiders has in recent centuries become apparent and hasn’t since stopped amazing the people who study it. Spider silks.
Spider silks are now known for many of their properties. They are the one of the strongest threads in nature while being the lightest. They also have an excellent level of flexibility mixed with superior toughness. Other great advantages are that the human immune system does not mind them and that they can be a great asset in surgeries and medical applications due to their ability to resist bacteria. But despite all these benefits, the potential of these marvels is not being used and researched as much as it should, which is why a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has taken it upon themselves to look deeper into the genes of Spider silks, in the largest ever study of its kind.
- In the course of the study, the research team was able to sequence the full genome of a spider species that is known for producing the richest silk with 28 different types of silk proteins. The spider is known as the golden orb-weaver.
- The results of the study were enormous as the researchers themselves compared them to solving a multi million-piece jigsaw puzzle with only a few clues about how it all fits. In fact, prior research has shown the DNA’s link to some of the silk’s properties such as strength as stretchiness but the new results are bringing in even more information that will take a long time to identify.
They were able to find genes that control flexibility and stickiness for example among hundreds of other that are still being identified. Now, the aim for the team would be to try and replicate these properties into medical and biotechnical uses for the betterment of mankind.