Navigation Links
Behind the secrets of silk lie high-tech opportunities
Date:7/29/2010

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- Tougher than a bullet-proof vest yet synonymous with beauty and luxury, silk fibers are a masterpiece of nature whose remarkable properties have yet to be fully replicated in the laboratory.

Thanks to their amazing mechanical properties as well as their looks, silk fibers have been important materials in textiles, medical sutures, and even armor for 5,000 years.

Silk spun by spiders and silk worms combines high strength and extensibility. This one-two punch is unmatched by synthetics, even though silk is made from a relatively simple protein processed from water.

But in recent years scientists have begun to unravel the secrets of silk.

In the July 30, 2010, issue of the journal Science, Tufts biomedical engineering researchers Fiorenzo Omenetto, Ph.D., and David Kaplan, Ph.D., report that "Silk-based materials have been transformed in just the past decade from the commodity textile world to a growing web of applications in more high technology directions."

Fundamental discoveries into how silk fibers are made have shown that chemistry, molecular biology and biophysics all play a role in the process. These discoveries have provided the basis for a new generation of applications for silk materials, from medical devices and drug delivery to electronics.

Edible Optics, Implantable Electronics

The Science paper notes that the development of silk hydrogels, films, fibers and sponges is making possible advances in photonics and optics, nanotechnology, electronics, adhesives and microfluidics, as well as engineering of bone and ligaments. Because silk fiber formation does not rely on complex or toxic chemistries, such materials are biologically and environmentally friendly, even able to integrate with living systems.

Down the silk road of the future, Kaplan and Omenetto believe applications could include degradable and flexible electronic displays for sensors that are biologically and environmentally compatible and implantable optical systems for diagnosis and treatment. Progress in "edible optics" and implantable electronics has already been demonstrated by Kaplan and Omenetto, John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and others.

Many challenges remain. Kaplan and Omenetto say that key questions include how to fully replicate native silk assembly in the lab, how best to mimic silk protein sequences via genetic engineering to scale-up materials production, and how to use silk as a model polymer to spur new synthetic polymer designs that mimic natural silk's green chemistry.

Techniques for reprocessing natural silk protein in the lab continue to advance. Silks are also being cloned and expressed in a variety of hosts, including E. coli bacteria, fungi, plants and mammals, and through transgenic silkworms.

One day, efficient transgenic plants could be used to crop silk in much the same way that cotton is harvested today, the Tufts researchers note in their paper. In some regions, silk production might create a new microeconomy, as demand grows and production techniques improve.

"Based on the recent and rapid progression of silk materials from the ancient textile use into a host of new high-technology applications, we anticipate growth in the use of silks in a wide platform of applications will continue as answers to these remaining questions are obtained," say Omenetto and Kaplan.


'/>"/>

Contact: Kim Thurler
kim.thurler@tufts.edu
617-627-3175
Tufts University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Dinosaur-chewing mammals leave behind oldest known tooth marks
2. Gypsy moths wreak havoc, but their own enemies are not far behind
3. IOM report recommends framework to evaluate science behind health claims for foods and drugs
4. Untangling the quantum entanglement behind photosynthesis
5. Study pins factors behind geography of human disease
6. Searching for genes behind a trait
7. Scientists reveal driving force behind evolution
8. IUPUI researchers tackle protein mechanisms behind limb regeneration
9. The cause behind the characteristic shape of a long leaf revealed
10. Satellite data look behind the scenes of deadly earthquake
11. Fox Chase researchers uncover one force behind the MYC oncogene in many cancers
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Behind the secrets of silk lie high-tech opportunities
(Date:3/14/2016)... March 14, 2016 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... commerce market, announces the airing of a new series of ... week of March 21 st .  The commercials will air ... popular Squawk on the Street show. --> NXTD ... growing mobile commerce market, announces the airing of a new ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... March 10, 2016   Unisys Corporation (NYSE: ... Protection (CBP) is testing its biometric identity solution at ... to help identify certain non-U.S. citizens leaving the ... test, designed to help determine the efficiency and accuracy of ... February and will run until May 2016. --> ...
(Date:3/3/2016)... Calif. , March 3, 2016  FlexTech, a ... the categories of Innovation, Research & Development, Leadership in ... Leadership. This is the 9 th year of ... group of companies and individuals from past years ... based on a pre-described set of criteria, by a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 29, 2016 , ... Amendia, Inc., a ... procedures, today announced the completion of a significant transaction and partnership that positions ... customers and partners. Kohlberg & Company, L.L.C. (“Kohlberg”), a leading private equity ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 29, 2016 , ... Summit for Stem Cell has ... development of a patient-specific stem cell therapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The ... Jeanne Loring at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, CA. , ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... -- The report "Cryocooler Market by Type ... Support, Product Repairs & Refurbishment, Preventive Maintenance, and Customer ... published by MarketsandMarkets, the global market is expected to ... CAGR of 7.29% between 2016 and 2022. ... spread through 159 Pages and in-depth TOC on  "Cryocooler ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... ... April 28, 2016 , ... Next week ... talk on its first-in-class technologies for tissue stem cell counting and expansion to ... Biology to Reprogramming & CRISPR-based Genome Engineering in Burlington, Massachusetts. , The attention ...
Breaking Biology Technology: