Dragon #1

Made of silk

This isn't science fiction, you know. Spider silk is stronger than steel. Scientists in Sweden have come up with a more efficient way to produce artificial spider silk in labs. It might soon be used in hospitals. The authors of this study are Dr. Anna Rising and Jan Johansson. They're researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Dr. Rising joins us now. Thanks very much for being with us.

ANNA RISING: Thank you.

SIMON: And how do spiders do it? What makes it stronger than steel?

RISING: Well, spider silk is made up of proteins, and these proteins are then assembled into a fiber, and it is the binding between the proteins that makes the silk so tough.

SIMON: Now, by making artificial spider silk, are you are you putting hard-working spiders out of business?

RISING: (Laughter) No, I don't think so anyway because it's really, really laborious to reel the silk from spiders. They are territorial, and they are cannibalistic, so you can't really house them. So what you have to do is to produce the silk artificially using bacteria to produce the proteins for you.

SIMON: I'm sorry. Until this moment, I had no idea spiders were cannibalistic.

RISING: Oh, they are (laughter).

SIMON: Well, yuck. What would you use the artificial spider silk for?

RISING: We want to use it for medical applications. But there is also a large interest in using it for doing high-performance textiles, for example.

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