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the re-invention of silk
March 8, 2011 11:22 AM   Subscribe

The re-invention of silk "For a millennium, traders brought silk fabrics from the Far East along the Silk Road to Europe, where the beautiful yet tough material was fashioned into dazzling clothes. Today bioengineers (video interview)are infusing the natural protein fibers spun by silkworms with enzymes and semiconductors. They are processing the modified strands under varying temperature, shear and acidic conditions to create novel materials with remarkable properties."
posted by dhruva (13 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh. I was just wondering last night whatever happened to that spider-goat.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:32 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of "novel materials" one of John Varley's most recent books ("The Globe"?) has a space-station being constructed of spidersilk. And it comes out of real spiders, who are the size of, and driven around like, giant bulldozers. In space. It's pretty awesome.
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on March 8, 2011


DU: And it comes out of real spiders, who are the size of, and driven around like, giant bulldozers. In space. It's pretty awesome.
You misspelled "absolutely terrifying".
posted by hincandenza at 11:43 AM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


I first learned about this in the late 90's, when I heard that some company was making Circus Peanuts with spidersugar. Doesn't hurt the spiders!
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:47 AM on March 8, 2011


The card acts as a simple oxygen sensor: light passing through it changes wavelength slightly, depending on how much oxygen has bound to the embedded haemoglobin. These changes can't be seen with the naked eye but can be detected by a photo­diode, a chip that turns light into electrical current. When a drop of oxygen-rich blood is placed on the sensor, for example, the hemoglobin draws in oxygen from it, and the wavelength of light registered by the photodiode shifts.
Interesting, but it doesn't sound very reusable Is there a way to get the hemoglobin back out?
posted by delmoi at 12:20 PM on March 8, 2011


Among the latest, developed with colleagues at Boston University, is the idea of using silk as the basis for metamaterials, which can manipulate light or other electromagnetic radiation in ways that nature ordinarily cannot.

This is what I hate about science reporting.
posted by atbash at 12:31 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Omenetto's recipe begins with cocoons spun by the silkworm Bombyx mori.
Coming soon to an In-N-Out ultra super secret menu near you!
posted by xqwzts at 12:37 PM on March 8, 2011


Interesting, but it doesn't sound very reusable Is there a way to get the hemoglobin back out?

Well, it doesn't have to be fully re-usable. The sensors could be re-usable with the card being disposable. You can manipulate the affinity of Haemoglobin for oxygen by manipulating the pH.
posted by atrazine at 12:42 PM on March 8, 2011


This is awesome. My dissertation research deals with the early modern silk industry, so sericulture is becoming a fascination very quickly.

And damn it, I want a spider silk scarf asap!
posted by strixus at 2:08 PM on March 8, 2011


And scientists are experimenting with artificial nerve grafts using spider silk as scaffolding. This is of great interest to me because my entire peripheral nervous system needs rewiring with gene therapy, stem cells, and neurotropic factors. Somebody get on that, will ya? Kthxbye.
posted by Soliloquy at 3:14 PM on March 8, 2011


My kimono is: "100% Man Made Silk".
posted by ovvl at 4:57 PM on March 8, 2011


Yes, much to the chagrin of vegans...sigh.
posted by chance at 5:50 PM on March 8, 2011


Huh. I was just wondering last night whatever happened to that spider-goat.

So, after you mentioned this, I got curious, so I asked Dr. Keefer. She says,
They moved to Wyoming. See [this PBS thing].

Randy Lewis is the scientist that cloned the spider silk gene. Now that Nexia is defunct, he bought some of the tg goats that Nexia made and is still working with them to some extent. If you watch the clip you might note that none of the Nexia team that actually made the goats (including me) are mentioned, but then I don't remember the CEO of Nexia ever mentioning Randy when he was doing Nexia PR. Alas, the ways of biotech.
(tg = transgenic, cloned = isolated from the spider genome)
posted by zennie at 8:27 AM on March 9, 2011


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