Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Paralysis promises smart silk technology

Date:
September 19, 2013
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Researchers have harnessed the natural defense mechanism of silkworms, which causes paralysis, in what is a major step towards the large-scale production of silks with tailor-made properties.

Cocoons and silkworm.
Credit: ermess / Fotolia

Oxford University researchers have harnessed the natural defence mechanism of silkworms, which causes paralysis, in what is a major step towards the large-scale production of silks with tailor-made properties.

Related Articles


Professor Fritz Vollrath and colleagues from the Oxford Silk Group at Oxford University's Department of Zoology collected silk directly from paralysed silkworms by injecting a chemical that is naturally produced by the animal. In the wild silkworms produce this hormone when they are injured since, as they move their bodies through hydrostatic pressure, without this self-induced paralysis their wounds would get worse and they would risk 'bleeding out'.

The team's report in the journal Biomacromolecules this week concludes that, in comparison to unparalysed silkworms, paralysis allows longer and more consistent silks to be collected by eliminating the ability of the silkworm to break and alter its silk fibre.

The direct 'forced reeling' of silk has been used in spiders for many years. However, reeling large amounts of silk directly from silkworms has not previously been possible. By tricking the silkworm into performing its natural response to injury and becoming paralysed the Oxford scientists show that it is possible to reel hundreds of meters of silk under full control.

Unlike unravelling cocoons, as in the silk textile industry, silkworm forced reeling allows the silk properties to be modified to suit particular purposes. This has important implications for the large-scale reeling of silkworms for industrial production of environmentally-friendly fibres for use in a range of applications -- from biomedical implants through to super-tough composite panels.

Silkworm paralysis may open the door to a range of silk technologies, using these animals which, unlike spiders, can be farmed at high-densities. Reeling of silk from paralysed worms is the subject of a recent patent, which also highlights the exciting potential for genetically modifying silkworms to induce paralysis 'on-demand', a particularly useful feature for mass-rearing.

'This is an interesting result as the paralysis prevents the silkworms breaking the fibre, but still allows silk spinning and collection,' said Beth Mortimer of the Oxford Silk Group, an author of the report.

'The commercial implications of this process are self evident: now we can make silks to order by manipulating the mechanical properties while at the same time adding functionality,' said Professor Vollrath.

Dr Alex Woods, an entomologist and Oxford-based medical researcher responsible for the original discovery said: 'importantly, this may allow us to make high-quality silks with a variety of desirable mechanical properties, in practical quantities, to finally expand this exceptionally well-suited biomaterial into key medical applications.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Beth Mortimer, Chris Holland, Fritz Vollrath. Forced Reeling ofBombyx moriSilk: Separating Behavior and Processing Conditions. Biomacromolecules, 2013; 130918134510001 DOI: 10.1021/bm401013k

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Paralysis promises smart silk technology." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919204600.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2013, September 19). Paralysis promises smart silk technology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919204600.htm
University of Oxford. "Paralysis promises smart silk technology." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919204600.htm (accessed February 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 30, 2015) A nanosensor that mimics the oral effects and sensations of drinking wine has been developed by Danish and Portuguese researchers. Jim Drury saw it in operation. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Retired astronaut and television host, Leland Melvin, snuck his dogs into the NASA studio so they could be in his official photo. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) shows us, the secret is out. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) The U.S. has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) An African Golden Cat, the rarest large cat on the planet was recently caught on camera by scientists trying to study monkeys. The cat comes out of nowhere to attack those monkeys. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) has the rest. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins