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Colored Fluorescent Silk Made by Transgenic Silkworms



Silk is a protein fiber used to weave fabrics and as a biomaterial in medical applications. Recently, genetically modified silks have been produced from transgenic silkworms. In the present study, transgenic silkworms for the mass production of three colors of fluorescent silks, (green, red, and orange) are generated using a vector originating from the fibroin H chain gene and a classical breeding method. The suitability of the recombinant silks for making fabrics is investigated by harvesting large amounts of the cocoons, obtained from rearing over 20 thousand silkworms. The application of low temperature and a weakly alkaline solution for cooking and reeling enables the production of silk fiber without loss of color. The maximum strain tolerated and Young's modulus of the fluorescent silks are similar to those of ordinary silk, although the maximum stress value of the recombinant silk is slightly lower than that of the control. Fabrics with fluorescent color are demonstrated using the recombinant silk, with the color persisting for over two years. The results indicate that large amounts of genetically modified silk can be made by transgenic silkworms, and the silk is applicable as functional silk fiber for making fabrics and for use in medical applications.