It’s hard to hear the word “spiders” in scientific research and not think about Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider and becoming the Spider-Man superhero we all know and love.

Yet in real life, there may be some very practical applications of using spider silk to aid in regenerative medicine by creating gels that could be used inside the human body.

As reported in World Bio Market Insights:

A team of scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences reported that spider silk proteins can be incorporated into biologically active proteins and be converted into a gel at body temperature. The study ‘Spidroin N-terminal domain forms amyloid-like fibril based hydrogels and provides a protein immobilization platform’ is published in Nature Communications.”

In the future, the researchers hope to use this knowledge to develop an injectable protein solution that forms a gel inside the body. Designing hydrogels for specific functions presents a range of possible applications. This could be used to achieve a controlled release of drugs into the body. In the chemical industry, it could be fused to enzymes to speed up various processes.”

Researchers are encouraged that the spider silk seems to be accepted by the human body and that the protein forms a gel at body temperature. They are also intrigued about spiders being able to keep proteins soluble to avoid clumping prior to spinning the silk.

So don’t expect any web slinging or wall crawling to come from these experiments, but the prospects they pose for helping with medicine are even more exciting.

Author

  • Adam Houser

    Adam Houser coordinates student leaders as National Director of CFACT's collegians program and writes on issues of climate and energy.