Japanese firm to mass-produce synthetic spider silk

Tokyo, June 19 (IANS/EFE) A Japanese company has developed a synthetic protein based on spider silk and plans to use it to mass-produce a highly resistant and flexible fiber in the near future.

After six years of research, Spiber, in collaboration with Keio University’s Institute for Advanced Biosciences and the company Kojima Industries, will inaugurate a plant this year with the capacity to produce up to 100 kg of synthetic spider silk a month.

“This type of fiber has many applications,” company spokesman Shinya Murata told EFE, adding that initial production will focus on products with applications in fields as diverse as heart surgery and car parts.

Spiber produces the synthetic material through a complex process that involves decoding several of the genes spiders use to make their silk, which is stronger than steel and more elastic than nylon.

Inserted into the DNA of E.coli bacteria, those synthesized genes induce the micro-organisms to produce fibroin, a structural protein that forms the structural center of spider silk.

That protein is then de-codified, reproduced and cultivated through biotechnology.

“Many companies say they have managed to produce spider silk artificially, but we have done it in a much more productive way,” Murata said.

The company, which already has applied for 16 patents, aims to market products under the QMONOS brand name, which is derived from the Japanese word for spider web.

The company hopes to “step into a new era” by transforming the synthetic protein it has developed into fiber, film, gel, sponge, powder, and nanofiber form, Murata said.

To that end, the company this year unveiled its “Blue Dress”, an elegant evening gown that is the world’s first product made entirely of synthetic spider silk.



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