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Spider Silk…Several Usages Including Reformation of Heart Tissues | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A spider weaves its web on tree during the early morning in the
eastern Indian state of Odisha. (Reuters)

Berlin, London- Spider threads usually means that someone has not cleaned his house for a long time. Yet, experts at the University of Bayreuth, Germany have another perspective on this subject, and considered the spider silk a very interesting material which serves in several fields.

According to the DPA, Dr. Thomas Scheibel and in cooperation with the Erlangen University Hospital highlighted the role that can be played by the spider silk in restructuring the heart tissue of people who suffered from a heart attack. The big focus was on the proteins that give this silk its structure and strength.

Prof. Dr. Felix Engel from the Erlangen University proved that the silk of Indian spider significantly serves as a structuring material for heart tissues. Until now, producing the protein in sufficient quantities and at a consistent quality had been impossible. However, scientists have successfully produced a recombinant silk protein from garden spiders in the required larger quantities and of a consistent quality, according to Scheibel.

For his part, Wolfram-Hubertus Zimmermann, director of the Institute of Pharmacology, Heart Research Center Göttingen, said that continuous researches are being conducted in the field tissues engineering or composition and growth of tissues.

The German professor explained that the current research includes many materials, saying the results reached so far in collaboration between researchers from Erlangen and Bayreuth are “very early signs”.

“The innovation in these researches is the manufacture of silk outside the spider’s body,” revealed Zimmermann. He added that experiments on spider silk in this context should continue, but the results and evolvement of these discoveries are still unknown.

The spider silk is strongest and more solid than nylon, Kevlar fibers and all the other known fibrous materials.

The idea of ​​using silk as an effective substance emerged in the 1980s. However, renowned companies working in chemical industries failed to widen the production of spider silk. “At that time, everyone said this could not be applied,” said Scheibel.

He added that raising and milking large spiders is economically inefficient, especially that the quality of this silk deteriorates when these spiders are captives.

Scheibel explained that the good characteristics of the spider silk derive from the smallest proteins, so the production of these proteins in big quantities would be sufficient.

But not all the produced proteins have the same properties of the targeted protein. There is also a serious problem with spider silk proteins, as the latter need a simple external push to concentrate and become stronger.

According to Scheibel, this is essential for the yarning process in nature; these solid structures become a problem during the wrapping and cleaning of the silk.

In 2008, Scheibel founded the AMSilk Company with two of his assistants, and it took three years for the company to produce a drag-line silk protein from the garden spider in a 120,000 liter fermentation container.
During their journey, the researchers had to modify the spider’s protein slightly through what is known as the “protein engineering”, and to develop a special cleaning and yarning process.

In this way a white network that resembles to other fibrous materials was formed. But the big difference between these proteins and the industrial polymers is that the bioactive material is recyclable, as spiders devour their networks in the nature, explained Scheibel.