Spider Silk: From Soluble Protein to Extraordinary Fiber



On a silky thread: Spider silks have mechanical properties that outperform most natural and synthetic fibers. Classical spinning methods have failed to mimic the highly complex natural in-vivo spinning process. Analyzing this process in combination with in-vitro findings allows the development of biomimetic spinning devices for the technical production of silk fibers (see picture).

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Spider silks outrival natural and many synthetic fibers in terms of their material characteristics. In nature, the formation of a solid fiber from soluble spider silk proteins is the result of complex biochemical and physical processes that take place within specialized spinning organs. Herein, we present natural and artificial silk production processes, from gene transcription to silk protein processing and finally fiber assembly. In-vivo and in-vitro findings in the field of spider silk research are the basis for the design of new proteins and processing strategies, which will enable applications of these fascinating protein-based materials in technical and medical sciences.