Over the years, engineers and scientists tried to create a synthetic mimic of a spider’s silk using yeast, goat milk and genetically modified bacteria, but they have always failed to do so.
Creating a long string of repeating DNA is part of the challenge, according to a report by ScienceNews.
To overcome this problem, the researchers separated the repeating DNA into bits and inserted each one of them into an E.coli microbe. This procedure allowed the smaller pieces to be less likely altered within the bacteria and each microbe managed to follow the genetic instructions that led them to produce a short strand of silk.
As a result, the material finally behaved like dragline silk and its resistance to being pulled apart was measured at 1.03 gigapascals, which is almost the same compared to the naturally produced dragline silk. Compared to a spider’s silk’s 100 megajoules, the engineered silk’s toughness could be measured up to 114 megajoules per cubic meter.
“We can now use bacteria to produce something as good as nature,” Fuzhong Zhang, a synthetic biologist from Washington University in St. Louis who presented the research at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Currently, the team is now working to develop their study on engineering bacteria even further to produce a full silk strand, rather than just segments of it.