Genetically-Engineered Bacteria Can Result In Bullet-Proof Spider Silk

Harin - Apr 04, 2019

Genetically-Engineered Bacteria Can Result In Bullet-Proof Spider Silk

Scientists from Washington University have figured out how to genetically alter bacteria to churn out super-strong spider silk.

Scientists have found out how to gene-hack bacteria to produce spider silk that is super strong.

Pound for pound, it is known that spider silk is five times stronger steel. However, not like steel, manufacturers cannot mass-produce the natural fiber. So figuring out a way for mass-production could result in super-strong fabrics and maybe even more advanced space suits.

Spider Silk

If you put enough spiders you need to make silk in one place; they have a tendency to devour each other. So scientists have attempted to gene-edit bacteria, plants, yeast and even goats for spider silk production. But as much as they have tried, the final results are not exactly positive, and they haven’t been able to replicate the mechanical properties or the natural fiber entirely.

Fuzhong Zhang, the research’s lead researcher from Washington University in St. Louis said:


To overcome those limitations, researchers cut into smaller pieces the spider silk genes. One these pieces had been merged into the bacterial genome, they re-assembled. On March 2, the team presented their results at the American Chemical Society Spring 2019 Meeting.

The fiber from gene-engineered bacteria

This new approach allows scientists to produce two grams of silk, which is as strong as the normal silk of a spider, for one liter of gene-edited bacteria.

Considering how much silk was produced, that’s not much for the number of bacteria. However, the press release claims that it is a significant improvement compared to previous attempts to mass-produce silk.

If scientists can further improve this research, NASA astronauts may want to carry with them the bacteria on future missions as they can be a new kind of materials for repairs.


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