Linking spider genes with silk strength to guide design of future biomaterials
Spider silk is renowned for its strength, but there are thousands of species of spider. Now researchers are investigating the diversity of silks from spiders around the world, such as the salty ant spider (Myrmarachne formicaria) found jumping around Japan (top, second from left) or Hasselt's spiny spider (Macracantha hasselti) found in India (middle, second from left). So far, the team have sequenced genetic information from over 1000 species, and studied the biomechanical properties of silk from over 400 of these. Drawing links between these data – between genes and traits, genotypes and phenotypes – the team find genetic clues to making different types of silk protein or spidroin. But charting the evolution of the toughest silks is only one ambition of the silkome project – researchers want to use their data to guide the design of new 'renewable, biodegradable, and sustainable' biomaterials, perhaps for use in medical procedures or biomedical engineering.
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