Hybrid Silkworms Spin Spider Silk—A First
Stronger silk may be used to make parachutes, artificial limbs.
New genetically modified silkworms produce cocoons incorporating the stretchier, stronger fibers spiders use to spin their webs, according to a new study. (See pictures: "World's Biggest, Strongest Spider Webs Found.")
"Our hope was that by embedding spider-silk protein [gene] sequences within silkworm silk [gene] sequences, we could get those proteins to co-assemble ... into composite fibers, and that is what happened," said study co-author Don Jarvis, a molecular biologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
The genetically engineered silkworms produced silk that was still 96 to 98 percent silkworm, with only 2 to 4 percent of the fiber proteins coming from spiders, Jarvis said.
Even with such a small