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 Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland

nachricht Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>