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Notre Dame and Wyoming scientists genetically engineer silkworms to produce artificial spider silk
Date:9/29/2010

A research and development effort by the University of Notre Dame, the University of Wyoming, and Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Inc. has succeeded in producing transgenic silkworms capable of spinning artificial spider silks.

"This research represents a significant breakthrough in the development of superior silk fibers for both medical and non-medical applications," said Malcolm J. Fraser Jr., a Notre Dame professor of biological sciences. "The generation of silk fibers having the properties of spider silks has been one of the important goals in materials science."

Natural spider silks have a number of unusual physical properties, including significantly higher tensile strength and elasticity than naturally spun silkworm fibers. The artificial spider silks produced in these transgenic silkworms have similar properties of strength and flexibility to native spider silk.

Silk fibers have many current and possible future biomedical applications, such as use as fine suture materials, improved wound healing bandages, or natural scaffolds for tendon and ligament repair or replacement. Spider silk-like fibers may also have applications beyond biomedical uses, such as in bulletproof vests, strong and lightweight structural fabrics, a new generation athletic clothing and improved automobile airbags.

Until this breakthrough, only very small quantities of artificial spider silk had ever been produced in laboratories, but there was no commercially viable way to produce and spin these artificial silk proteins. Kraig Biocraft believed these limitations could be overcome by using recombinant DNA to develop a bio-technological approach for the production of silk fibers with a much broader range of physical properties or with pre-determined properties, optimized for specific biomedical or other applications.

The firm entered into a research agreement with Fraser, who discovered and patented a powerful and unique genetic engineering to
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Contact: Malcolm J. Fraser
fraser.1@nd.edu
574-631-6209
University of Notre Dame
Source:Eurekalert

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