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Humans have been making use of spider silk for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used cobwebs to stop wounds from bleeding and the Aborigines used silk as fishing lines for small fish. ..and people of the Solomon Islands still use silk as fish nets.
Most spiders have multiple silk glands, which secrete different types of silk material optimized for different purposes. By winding different silk varieties together in varying proportions, spiders can form a wide range of fiber material. Spiders can also vary fiber consistency by adjusting the spigots to form smaller or larger strands.
Spider silk is incredibly strong and flexible. Some varieties are five times as strong as an equal mass of steel and twice as strong as an equal mass of Kevlar. This has attracted the attention of scientists in a number of fields, but up until recently, humans haven't been able to get much out of this natural resource. It's simply too hard to extract silk from spiders, and each spider has only a small amount of it.
The problem is that spiders tend to be murderous and cannibalistic toward each other—they’re not exactly what you might call farm-friendly animals. That makes spider silk difficult to mass produce, and harvesting it from the wild can take years.
"With our new silkworms, we’re going to be able to change that completely," Lewis says. He’s part of a team that recently used worms to create spider silk.
The silk fibers produced by these animals were composite materials that included chimeric silkworm/spider silk proteins integrated in an extremely stable manner.
Researchers from the University of Wyoming have developed a way to incorporate spiders' silk-spinning genes into goats, allowing the researchers to harvest the silk protein from the goats’ milk for a variety of applications.
researchers melded spider silk and human skin into Spiderman-like body armor.
The silk’s strength, flexibility, and biodegradability may make it a nearly ideal matrix for growing skin and healing wounds, the researchers said
spider silk appears to aid in the regeneration of other tissues, such as neurons and blood vessels. Some types of spider silk may even have antimicrobial properties, which could help wounds to heal faster.
Some companies have expressed interest in creating airbags from spider-silk composites, Lewis says. "Instead of blasting you back in your seat, a spider-silk airbag could envelope you in the same way a web does, and the silk could absorb the force."