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Israeli scientists spin first artificial spider's web


Wed Nov 24, 2004

JERUSALEM (AFP) - An Israeli university has succeeded in genetically-engineering a form of spider's web almost identical to natural webs which could be developed for commercial use.

Created out of genes from the bodies of the spiders themselves, the webs are much stronger than silk and could be used in the manufacture of bullet-proof vests, surgical threat and fishing rods, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

The development, which was achieved by scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem along with experts from Munich University in Germany and Britain's Oxford University, could open the way for production of the cobwebs for industrial use.

Natural webs contain silks from certain proteins and in order to duplicate such properties the scientists used genes from the garden spider which contain a protein known as dragline silk. Characterised by its strength and elasticity, dragline silk is six times stronger than nylon and steel fibre of the same diameter, the paper said.

"From a practical viewpoint, mass production of fibres whose diameter is one-thousandth of a millimetre is likely to be useful in the future for the manufacture of bulletproof vests, surgical thread, micro-conductors, optical fibres and fishing rods," said Israeli developmental biologist Uri Gat. "Even new types of clothing may be envisioned."

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