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New ways to strengthen biomimetic spider-silk

New ways to strengthen biomimetic spider-silk
Evolutionary grouping of different spidroins based on A. ventricosus terminal domains, repetitive and spacer regions. Credit: Advanced Functional Materials (2024). DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202315409

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have found that spiders have a special trick to make their silk strong, by using a natural biocompatible molecular enhancer. By using the same secret the researchers are able to create biomimetic spider-silk fibers in a non-toxic way. The study is published in Advanced Functional Materials.

Spider is known for being a strong and environmentally friendly material, while biomimetic spider silk-like fibers currently fall short in terms of mechanical performance.

One strategy to increase the mechanical strength of biomimetic spider silk-like fibers is by introducing amyloid-forming motifs (fibrillar protein assembles) into spider silk proteins (spidroins). However, it is then important to note that are inherently toxic, e.g., silk nanofibrils derived from cocoons, potentially associated with various diseases.

Gefei Chen, principal researcher at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet and corresponding author of this new study, explains that the molecular enhancers (spacer domains) instead self-assemble into amyloid-like fibrils through pathways likely avoiding formation of cytotoxic intermediates. Incorporating this spacer domain into a chimeric spidroin facilitates into silk-like fibers, increases fiber molecular homogeneity, and markedly enhances the fiber mechanical strength.

New ways to strengthen biomimetic spider-silk
Self-assembly of the chimeric spidroin NMC and NMSC. a,b) Schematic architectures of the chimeric spidroin NMC and NMSC. c,d) Self-assembly of NMC and NMSC at different concentrations under pH 7.5. The silk-like fibers were imaged by a fluorescent microscope. e) Self-assembly of recombinant NMC and NMSC within an Eppendorf tube at pH 7.0. The yellow arrows indicate silk-like fibers. The silk-like fibers were imaged by inverted fluorescence and scanning microscopy. Credit: Advanced Functional Materials (2024). DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202315409

This spacer domain hence offers a way to enhance the properties of recombinant -like fibers and the researchers hope to be able to use this strategy on different functional materials to enhance their mechanical properties.

The study was a team effort by researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Soochow University (China), and UmeƄ University, with a mix of tools including , math models, and a method to spin silk.

More information: Xingmei Qi et al, Spiders Use Structural Conversion of Globular Amyloidogenic Domains to Make Strong Silk Fibers, Advanced Functional Materials (2024). DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202315409

Journal information: Advanced Functional Materials

Citation: New ways to strengthen biomimetic spider-silk (2024, March 4) retrieved 15 April 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-03-ways-biomimetic-spider-silk.html
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