The Reinvention of Silk (NYTimes)

Although a typical spider can produce five types of silk, it does not make much of any of them. Obtaining commercial quantities is a practical impossibility — spiders are loners and require a diet of live insects; some are cannibals. In other words, spider ranching is out of the question.

Researchers have worked to overcome this fundamental limitation by trying to unlock the secrets of the spider’s silk-making abilities so silk could be made in the laboratory, or by genetically transferring those abilities to other organisms that could produce silk in quantity. But so far the materials produced lack the full strength, elasticity and other qualities of the real thing.


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