Could a dose of webicillin beat that stubborn infection? Could a cobweb bandage help soldiers and accident victims with bleeding wounds? Is a wrapping of spider silk the key to preventing the body from rejecting implants?
A review of research on spider silk concludes that scientists have largely overlooked such possible medical applications of this extraordinary natural material, which is stronger than steel. In a report in the current (Sept. 13) issue of the ACS monthly journal Chemical Reviews, Randolph V. Lewis, of the University of Wyoming, describes other scientific research on spider silk during the last 15 years.
"Very few studies of biological testing of spider silk have been done in a rigorous manner," Lewis states.
"There is a large body of folklore concerning the antibiotic, wound-healing, and clot-inducing activity of spider silk. However, much of that lore has not been seriously tested."
The lore dates to the first century A.D. when spider webs were prized as wound dressings. They even found a place in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream: "I shall desire you of more acquaintance, good master cobweb," the character "Bottom" said. "If I cut my finger, I shall make bold of you."
The scanty scientific evidence is tantalizing, Lewis notes. He cites, for instance, animal studies concluding that spider silks do not induce an immune response -- which causes rejection of implants.
Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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