A team of researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid believe they can create regenerative medicine from super-strong spider silk. The team are using a procedure used to fabricate the form of silk that was used two centuries ago in Murcia. The silk, which is currently being developed at the Center for Biomedical Technology (CTB), is the strongest ever developed and is known as hijuela de araña, which roughly translates to “little daughter of the spider.”
With a diameter much greater than its natural predecessors, the enhanced fiber is able to take a much higher weight. This also increased the mechanical and biocompatibility properties of the spider silk making it ideal for regenerative medicine.
Previously, hijuela was produced from silkworms in the 19th century using a traditional process dependant on an acid liquid medium. This deformed the worms’ silk glands and made the silk much stronger.
The Madrid-based team believe that the method could have benefits for the medical industry and are using similar techniques to create the hijuela de araña. Using the silk glands of spiders from the species Nephila inaurata of southern Africa and Madagascar, the researchers were able to deform the glands in order to create larger-diameter fibers than normal.
In a statement, the university said: “This work is part of a line research that aims to obtain silk-based biomaterials for biomedical applications. Silk is indeed a biomaterial with excellent mechanical properties and great strength and deformability. Besides, by using the available biotechnological techniques is possible, in principle, to obtain artificial silks with improved properties like the ability to facilitate cell adhesion for applications such as scaffolds for regeneration of damaged tissues.”
This spider silk could go a long way toward helping patients with all sorts of maladies, but whether the medicine will enable patients to shoot webs from their hands still remains to be seen.