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Silk worms bring Spider Man's web closer to reality

London, Jan 4, PTI 23:05 IST
The Spider Man web, which helps him snare bad guys and swing among the city's skyscrapers, is closer to reality, say scientists who have created genetically modified silkworms which can spin much stronger silk.

A team at the University of Wyoming says that its eventual aim is to produce silk from worms that has the toughness of spider silk. In fact, in weight-for-weight terms, spider silk is stronger than steel.Researchers worldwide have been trying to reproduce such silk for decades. But it is unfeasible to "farm" spiders for the commercial production of their silk because the arachnids don't produce enough of it.

Silk worms, however, are easy to farm and produce vast amounts of silk -- but the material is fragile.So, researchers have tried for years to get the best of both worlds -- super-strong silk in industrial quantities -- by transplanting genes from spiders into worms. But the resulting genetically modified worms have not produced enough spider silk until now.

Now, the GM worms produced by a team led by Professor Don Jarvis of Wyoming University seem to be producing a composite of worm and spider silk in large amounts, which it says is just as tough as spider silk, the PNAS journal reported.

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