Transgenic tobacco plants have successfully synthesized spider silk, a development that could allow industrial-scale production of synthetic spider silk that’s as strong as the real stuff.
E.S. Piruzyan and colleagues from the Institute of General Genetics in Moscow, Russia are seeking ways to produce the silk in industrial quantity because of its strength and toughness.
Five times stronger than steel and more elastic than Kevlar, spider silk could be used for a variety of applications, from medical sutures to space stations.
Spider silk is so desirable that scientists have spent decades trying to find a way to synthesize it.
Current projects to create spider silk include efforts by Nexia Biotechnologies in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec to genetically modify goats to produce milk rich with spider silk proteins that can be spun into fiber.
Now, the Russian researchers have inserted a gene similar to one that enables spiders to produce their webs into tobacco plants.
The plants then produced the spider silk protein, called spidroin.