Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Eggs on Stalks

31.05.2012
Synthetic silk: researchers imitate the egg stalks of lacewings

Silk is a fascinating material, not just in fashion, but also in science and engineering, because the outstanding mechanical properties of these whisper-thin threads made by insects easily overshadow most man-made fibers.



German researchers have now taken inspiration from the lacewing, which lays its eggs on stalks made of silk with extremely high tensile strength. As they report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they successfully produced synthetic egg stalks from biotechnologically generated proteins modeled on an egg-stalk protein.

Lacewings are light-green insects with transparent wings that are used by farmers to combat aphids. In order to protect their own offspring from predators, lacewings lay their eggs on very fine but extremely resilient silk stalks. To do this, the lacewing sticks a drop of silk dope from its abdomen to the underside of a leaf. It then presses an egg into the drop and pulls it downward. In this way, it pulls a thread that hardens within a few seconds in the air – the egg is now secured under the leaf. The threads are significantly finer than a human hair, but are so strong that they do not bend under the weight of the egg when the leaf is turned over.

The lacewing’s silk dope secretion contains several different proteins. One of the proteins contains a core domain with many repeated similar sequences. This area is flanked by small terminal domains that essentially control the properties of the silk proteins.

Thomas Scheibel and Felix Bauer at the University of Bayreuth wanted to produce an egg stalk with properties as similar as possible to the lacewing stalks. They thus developed a synthetic egg-stalk protein made of eight repeated building blocks consisting of 48 amino acids based on the repeating units of the natural silk protein. The end units were copied exactly from the original. The researchers synthesized a gene segment that codes for this artificial protein and introduced it into bacteria that then produce the protein.

Imitating silk stalk formation, the researchers dipped tweezers into a drop of protein solution, pulled out a filament, and attached the end of the stalk to a piece of aluminum foil. After drying, the stalks had similar tensile strength and elasticity to the natural version. At higher humidity, lacewing egg stalks are superior: they can be stretched out to up to six times their original length without tearing. The reason for this is the special accordion-like structure of other silk components. The researchers are confident that they will also be able to imitate this.

Possible applications for future synthetic silks range from the vehicle construction, for example in airbags, to medical applications, such as synthetic nerve conduits or drug delivery.

About the Author
Professor Thomas Scheibel is the Chair of Biomaterials at the University of Bayreuth (Germany). His research focuses on the biomimetic production of protein fibers as well as the production of protein-based materials for technical, pharmaceutical, and medical applications. He is Head of the Technical Committee “Bioinspired Materials” of the German Society for Materials Research (DGM). He won the Bionics Prize (2006), the “Innovation from Nature challenge” (2007) of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Karl Heinz Beckurts Award (2008) for the biomimetic production of spider silks.
Author: Thomas Scheibel, Universität Bayreuth (Germany), http://www.fiberlab.de/
Title: Artificial Egg Stalks Made of a Recombinantly Produced Lacewing Silk Protein

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201200591

Thomas Scheibel | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:
http://www.fiberlab.de/
http://pressroom.angewandte.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>