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Trends Biotechnol. 2008 May;26(5):244-51. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2008.02.006. Epub 2008 Mar 25.

Spider silks and their applications.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.


Spider silks are characterized by remarkable diversity in their chemistry, structure and functions, ranging from orb web construction to adhesives and cocoons. These unique materials have prompted efforts to explore potential applications of spider silk equivalent to those of silkworm silks, which have undergone 5,000 years of domestication and have a variety of uses, from textiles to biomedical materials. Recent progress in genetic engineering of spider silks and the development of new chimeric spider silks with enhanced functions and specific characteristics have advanced spider silk technologies. Further progress in yields of expressed spider-silk proteins, in the control of self-assembly processes and in the selective exploration of material applications is anticipated in the future. The unique features of spider silks, the progress and challenges in the cloning and expression of these silks, environmentally triggered silk assembly and disassembly and the formation of fibers, films and novel chimeric composite materials from genetically engineered spider silks will be reviewed.

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