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MedWorld: Feature

Work & Motion
Spider Silk Sutures

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By Bryan Chan

November 22, 1995


If you're like me and you just can't stand bugs flying around and crawling all over, you probably spend alot of your time chasing after spiders. As you know, spiders catch their prey by spinning death traps out of fine almost transparent thread that just seems to always get in the way. However, a researcher in Wyoming has found that spider silk spun by ordinary spiders may provide surgeons with a new and better material for stitching up wounds. Spider silk makes an ideal suture thread because it is highly resistant to climate changes, bacteria, enzymes and fungal growth.

When spider silk was inserted in the skin and muscle of mice, it proved to be stable and strong. More importantly, spider silk was found to be non toxic; the mice actually had fewer side effects than with conventional cotton sutures.

Before spider silk can be used in humans, scientists need to first clone the gene that encodes the proteins in the silk in order to mass produce it. Till then, you'll want to hold off on investing in a backyard spider farm because a typical household spider will need to spin for at least two full days before enough silk is produced to sew up even the smallest of wounds.







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