Spider Silk’s Unique Protein Studied for Alternate Use

Darwin’s Bark Spider will be the center of an important study for its Dragline Silk, known to be the toughest spider silk discovered so far.

A team of researchers from the US are studying the component that makes the silk of Darwin’s Bark Spider so tough, stretchy and lightweight. This will aid in the development of high-performance fibers.

A silk protein is discovered to be the essential component that is responsible Darwin’s bark spider’s herculean silk, that is the largest-recorded orb web, suspended on up to 25-meter-long threads. Not only is the spider’s silk toughest among other silks but with an inherent elasticity of 90% of its length, it is one of the toughest biological materials found in the world.

The spiders possess seven different glands that produce different kinds of silk. Dragline silk is made by the major ampullate gland inside their abdomen. The research team involved, sequenced the species’ gene transcripts. “What’s particularly striking is that is has a lot of proline [in it], which is an amino acid that has previously been associated with stretchiness… in dragline silk,” Dr. Jessica Garb evolutionary biologist, University of Massachusetts Lowell and lead author of the study.

“Studies like this, looking at the actual biology of animals … are useful for fields that might not really be thought to be adjacent to them, like material science and manufacturing,” Dr. Andrew Walker, an invertebrate biologist at the University of Queensland, commented on the US team’s work.

The natural sequence of the silk can be studies as it is and be replicated for commercial or related use but the practicality of using it in apparels has been dismissed by Dr. Carb, who says it takes silk produced from millions of spiders for make a single garment or article, making it unpragmatic and labor intensive.