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Amazing! Scientists Create Antibiotic Spider Silk for Treating Wounds via 'Click-Chemistry'

Jan 10, 2017 06:10 AM EST
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Spider silk is used by scientists to create a synthetic antibiotic material to treat wounds.
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Spider silk is a remarkable materia,l and it's only beginning to prove itself. Recently, a team from the University of Nottingham developed an antibiotic synthetic spider silk that can prove to be useful in drug delivery, regenerative medicine and healing wounds with less probability of infection.

According to a report from Phys Org, the Nottingham group was able to use what they dub "click-chemistry" to attach molecules - for instance, antibiotics - to artificially created spider silk synthesized by E.coli bacteria. Click-chemistry is a technique that has the chosen molecules clicking into place in the spider silk solution before it turns into actual fiber.

"Our technique allows the rapid generation of biocompatible, mono or multi-functionalised silk structures for use in a wide range of applications," Neil Thomas, lead researcher and professor of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, said. "These will be particularly useful in the fields of tissue engineering and biomedicine."

The team showed that their biodegradable mesh product is able to do two different things necessary for healing wounds: it's able to accellerate the growth of new tissue and also able to release antibiotics slowly and with control.

"There is the possibility of using the silk in advanced dressings for the treatment of slow-healing wounds such as diabetic ulcers," Thomas explained. "Using our technique, infection could be prevented over weeks or months by the controlled release of antibiotics. At the same time tissue regeneration is accelerated by silk fibres functioning as a temporary scaffold before being biodegraded."

The project came together with a chance encounter between Thomas and Dr Sara Goodacre from the School of Life Sciences. The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Spider silk has long been lauded for its strength as well as its qualities of being biocompatible and biodegradable. It's also ideal for medicinal uses because of the unlikelihood of the material causing allergic reactions in people. Even back in ancient times of the Greeks and the Romans, soldiers would treat each other using spider webs to halt bleeding in open wounds.

According to a report from Mother Nature Network, one strand of spider silk is thinner than a human hair. However, it is five times stronger than steel that's just as wide. It's extremely stretchable, but doesn't sag when it slackens. A study conducted in 2016 revealed that droplets on a spider's silk doesn't just capture prey, it also acts as an automatic reel by spooling the extra silk so the threads remain taut.

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