Scientists have revealed they can generate the fine but strong threads used by spiders to make their webs by growing it in genetically modified tobacco plants.
They have developed a method of purifying the silk from the plants and then spinning it into long threads several metres long.
Unlike traditional silk from silkworms, the threads used in spiders’ webs cannot be farmed on a mass scale as the arachnids are highly territorial and tend to attack each other if kept in close quarters.
Fashion designers have previously attempted to make clothing from spider silk, but it can take years to gather enough to weave a length of cloth.
The new technique, however, raises the prospect of being able to grow and collect spider silk from plants in much the same way as common textile materials like cotton.
The scientists at Clemson University in South Carolina who developed the technique say it could allow large quantities of spider silk to be produced for use in clothing.
The researchers … introduced genes from the golden orb web spider Nephila clavipes into tobacco plants.
[Read the full study here (behind paywall)]
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