Spider Silk and its many uses

Spider Silk in the future can contribute to medical, recreational and scientific purposes.  Scientists, are working on making Spider silk from goat milk, farming spiders, using alfalfa, and using silk worms. All of these are clever ideas for collecting spider silk but all of those ideas have flaws.

Randy Lewis is one scientist who is working on ways to produce spider silk. Randy is using Golden orb weavers for this project. Randy is using all the techniques for making spider silk but he is finding that using silk worms is the most promising method to produce because there are many silk worms, they don’t have to be caged, and they can be raised together. The bad part is silk worms don’t make much silk on their own. Other promising methods are harvesting protein from transgenic goat milk (transgenic means one animal’s or plant’s DNA mixed with another’s) and taking out the proteins in transgenic alfalfa. Many other methods are not viable because they are too slow or in the case of raising spiders they will try to eat each other.

There are a plethora of spider silks but the Golden orb weaver only makes six. The six are Major Ampullate, otherwise known as major dragline, and spiders use this silk to climb. Next is the minor dragline silk which provides a scaffolding for the construction of the web. Spiders use the Aciniform silk to wrap their prey in. The next type of silk called the Piriform silk which connects one strand to another. Flagelliform silk is used in the inner spiral of the web and it prevents prey from bouncing off. Aggregate silk is the sticky substance on the flagelliform and helps catch prey.

Spider silk has many uses and scientists are looking for more uses.  The medical uses includes making tendons, ligaments, and surgical sutures.  The military is looking  for uses of spider silk and they figured out that spider silk is stronger than Kevlar , which is a human made fiber. It is also is better as a parachute rope materiel and as an airplane arresting wire. Spider silk can also be used for recreational purposes such as fishing line. Spider silk can also be used to make space suits. In the future there will be more everyday use for spider silk such as to make  shirts or to improve cotton.

There are some ethical concerns about transgenic animals and plants. The ethical concerns are that people may be allergic to these animals and plants, also transgenic technology may be misused, and transgenic plants may cross pollinate with other plants making the other plant a hybrid. All of these concerns have answers such as that it is unlikely that most people are allergic to these plants and animals. Ethical consideration is already in place for animals and plants. Some farmers are organic farmers and if their plants become transgenic plants they won’t be able to sell their crops (the rule has been lifted for Randy).

In the future spider silk will help us in scientific, recreational, and medical uses. Randy and his team are trying to create enough silk for products, but sadly that won’t happen for awhile. The first product made of spider silk will be fishing line because it doesn’t need a large amount of spider silk. as we can see spider silk will create stronger fibers for such products as bullet proof vests, parachute ropes, and airplane arresting wires. Who knew spider silk is stronger than steel?

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