May 06, 2017 01:55 PM EDT
For more than 50 years of research, scientists have just only identified a handful of comparative spider's silk genes. To find a silk genes hidden across a spider's genome may be a discouraging task to the researchers.
According to Chm, a spider's silk is the white substance that a spider produces. It is very elastic and is five times tougher than steel. Finer than the human hair, most threads of spider's silk are a few microns in diameter and it can keep its strength below -40°C.
Spiders use their silk for wrapping immovable prey, webs, draglines, parachuting or ballooning, shelters, egg sacs and for mating. Also, the silk is produced by the spider's silk glands that are located on the lower side of the abdomen and contain a watery fluid called "dope".
The toughest silk is the dragline silk from the Golden Orb-Weaving spider also known as the "Nephilia clavipes". It uses silk of a golden hue to make orb webs. It is also called the "engineer's dream" due to spider's silk can be tougher and more flexible than steel.
In the article published by Phys.org, scientists have long been studying the genome of spiders especially spider's silk and their possible benefits for technological advancements. But, progress has been slow due to the challenges encountered in identifying and characterizing spider's silk genes.
Amidst all the prevailing obstacles, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have now made a major advance with the largest-ever study of spider's silk genes. They also made a list of these silk genes and discovered amazing patterns and substances that can produce a silk-spinner that in able to produce 28 varieties of silk proteins within the genes that may explain the unique properties of different types of silk.
"There were so many surprises that emerged from our study: new silk genes, new DNA sequences that presumably confer strength, toughness, stretchiness and other properties to silk proteins; and even a silk protein made in venom glands rather than silk glands," senior author Benjamin F. Voight, Ph.D., associate professor in the departments of Genetics and Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, said. Voight also added that this new information should greatly advance their efforts to capture the extraordinary properties of these spider's silks in man-made materials.
Voight and his team are continuing the works of Charles Darwin following up with the genome sequencing of the bark spider. Also, they worked on technology for the rapid production of spider's silk in the lab from their spidroin DNA sequences to better sequences and their motifs encode silks' biological and physical properties.
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