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Synthetic silk inspired by insect

Nature volume 486, page 160 (14 June 2012) | Download Citation

The green lacewing (Mallada signata), an insect used in biological pest control, has inspired the creation of an artificial silk.

To protect its progeny from predators, the female lacewing suspends its eggs from the underside of a leaf using a thin silk stalk of remarkable tensile strength. To forge a similar stalk, Thomas Scheibel and Felix Bauer at the University of Bayreuth in Germany developed a synthetic protein based on a repeating amino-acid pattern found in one of the proteins in lacewing silk. The researchers introduced a synthetic gene that codes for the protein into Escherichia coli bacteria.

Filaments of the bacteria-produced silk proved to be almost as strong as natural lacewing silk, except at high humidity, and more elastic.

Angew. Chem. Int. Edn. (2012)

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