Soon, socks and bulletproof vests made from spider silk

December 10th, 2007 - 1:34 pm ICT by admin  

London, Dec 10 (ANI): Thought spiders webs use was just confined to giving you goosebumps in scary films, think again because scientists in Japan have found a way to use spiders webs to make anything from tights and fishing nets to bulletproof vests.

Researchers at Shinshu University have been successful in injecting spider genes into silkworms to create a thread that is stronger, softer and more durable than conventional silk.

The team, based in the city of Nagano and led by Masao Nakagaki, a professor of insect genetics, have devised a way of mass-producing spider silk, reports Times Online.

Nakagakis employed the silkworm in the production of the silk, whose shimmering fibres have been used to create cloth for more than 5,000 years.

In the technique, silkworm eggs are injected with the genes of Nephila clavata, the golden orb spider, known in Japanese as the courtesan spider.

The silkworm caterpillars that emerge from the eggs weave cocoons, of which 10 per cent consist of spider proteins. These are spun into silk.

Dragline silk, which spiders use to raise and lower themselves and to construct the spokes of their webs, has one of the highest tensile strengths of any natural substance - five times that of a thread of steel of the same thickness. In terms of its ability to absorb impact, it is superior to Kevlar, the plastic fibre used for antistab vests and body armour.

Other applications of the spider thread include tennis rackets and fishing line and nets.

It can be also used by microsurgeons as sutures after operations.

The only company developing commercial applications for the spider silk is Okamoto, a business based in Nara, central Japan, which plans to release extra-thin and durable spider socks by about 2010.

A Japanese manufacturer is also experimenting with the thread, and spider socks, stockings and even fishing lines are expected to appear on the market within a few years. (ANI)

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