SynBio could transform Spider Silk into a powerful Antibiotic material

06/01/2017 - 2 minutes

Scientists from the UK have developed a new spider silk biomaterial that can be used to avoid infections for extended periods of time. 

From biodegradable sneakers to musical instruments, there seems to be no limit to the applications of spider silk. Now, researchers at the University of Nottingham have developed synthetic spider silk that can be easily tuned for different applications using click chemistry.

The experiments, published in the journal Advanced Materials, show that spider silk fibers can be modified to incorporate the antibiotic levofloxacin. The result is that the compound is slowly released from the material, maintaining antimicrobial activity for at least five days.

To give spider silk these tunable properties, the scientists substituted an amino acid in the original protein sequence. The new, modified amino acid contains an azide group that can be used in click chemistry reactions to incorporate the desired compound.

AMSilk spider silk
AMSilk, in Germany, is developing spider silk biofibers for multiple applications, including medical devices and implant coating

The popularity of spider silk stems from its outstanding mechanical properties. The material, which can be easily produced in bioreactors using E. coli bacteria, is also biocompatible and biodegradable, which makes it ideal for medical applications.

The scientists have proposed the use of this new antibiotic material as a wound dressing that could prevent infection over weeks or even months. In addition, the silk could act as a scaffold for the cells, accelerating the regenerative process.

This new material could be a powerful new technology, especially in combination with modern antibiotics that tackle antimicrobial resistance. On top of it, the last few days are finally giving us reasons to be optimistic in the fight against infections, with the announcement that AiCuris is developing a new antibiotic and the discovery that honey from New Zealand is effective against superbugs.

Images by Orbovic/Shutterstock, AMSilk

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