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"The strength of spider dragline silk exceeds that of any material produced in laboratories, by far. All attempts to manufacture threads of similar strength have failed thus far," explains Professor Horst Kessler, Carl von Linde Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at the TU Muenchen (TUM-IAS). In collaboration with the workgroup of Prof. Thomas Scheibel, who was a researcher at the TU Muenchen until 2007 and who now holds a chair of the Institute of Biomaterials at the Universitaet Bayreuth, Professor Kessler's team has been researching for years to unveil the secret of spider silk.
How do spiders manage to first store the silk proteins in the silk gland and to then assemble them in the spinning passage in a split second to form threads with these extraordinary characteristics? And what exactly gives the threads their tremendous tensile strength? Scientists have now come one step closer to answering these key questions for the production of artificial spider silk.
Spider threads consist of long chains of thousands of repeating sequences of protein molecules. These silk proteins are stored in the silk gland in a highly concentrated form until they are needed. The long chains with their repeating sequences of protein molecules are initially unordered and must not get too close to each other as they would immediately clump up. Only in the spinning passage, just before being used, are the threads oriented parallel to each other and form so-called micro crystallites that are, in turn, assembled to stable threads with cross links.
During the last year, the scientists in Kessler's and Scheibel's team investigated the common garden spider ("cross spider") to discover the mechanism behind the transition from individual spider silk molecules to connected treads: The individual spider silk proteins ar
|Contact: Dr. Markus Bernards|
Technische Universitaet Muenchen