Grow new skin with spider silk

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Spider silk helps in the cultivation of skin cells

Spider silk could help cultivate artificial skin in the future. As Hanna Wendt from the Clinic for Plastic Hand and Reconstructive Surgery at the Medical University of Hanover (MHH) reports in the specialist magazine "PLoS ONE", spider silk is particularly suitable for the healing of chronic wounds or burns, because the spider threads are extremely tear-resistant and stretchy and also be tolerated by the human body.

In the past there has already been a lot of discussion about possible areas of application of the natural product spider silk and various areas have been touched upon. The extremely tear-resistant spider silk would be suitable, for example, for the production of particularly light bulletproof vests or as a building material. For some years now, research has also been working on the medical use of spider silk, for example to repair nerve cells. Hanna Wendt has now shown another possible application of the natural product in her doctoral thesis.

Spider silk with medical benefits According to the MHH expert, spider silk could play an important role in the cultivation of artificial skin in the future and thus significantly improve the treatment options for chronic wounds or burns. According to Hanna Wendt, "spider silk is ideally suited to the tasks of the skin" and "can do more than other materials that have previously been investigated for the cultivation of artificial skin." In earlier MHH studies, spider silk was already used to regenerate nerves and as a suture material Operations used, it has now been possible to grow skin cells with the help of spider silk, the scientist explained. One of the most difficult tasks was the extraction of the natural product.

Hanna Wendt used the golden spider web (Nephila sp.) From Tanzania to produce the spider silk. The spiders were literally milked. The researcher attached the tether of the animals, the production of which they cannot control, to a stainless steel frame about one square centimeter in size, and slowly pulled the spider thread onto the frame. The spider delivered up to 400 meters of thread in a fifteen-minute milking period, explained Hanna Wendt. The MHH researcher reports that the winding on the stainless steel frame created a close-meshed surface, to which skin cells were then applied. With an adequate supply of nutrients, heat and air, two superimposed tissue-like skin layers were created, which corresponded in structure to the outer skin layer (epidermis) and the dermis immediately below. The upper layer was formed from so-called keratinocytes, the lower layer from fibroblasts, explained Hanna Wendt. Although the structure is promising, further studies must be carried out to determine how well the newly grown skin grows, the expert continues.

As with all areas of use of spider silk that have been considered so far, the problem of sufficient availability of the natural product also remains when used for the cultivation of skin cells. Because although the spiders can produce masses of spider silk in relation to their body size, this is far from sufficient for the needs of the possible fields of application. Therefore, the spider silk would also have to be produced as synthetically as possible for clinical use, but this has not been possible up to now. It will probably take a few years of research before the spider silk is used in the treatment of patients as standard. (fp)

Also read:
Canadian researchers convert skin cells to blood cells
Missing protein causes scaly skin

Image: Rita Thielen /

Author and source information

Video: Artificial spider silk used to build spare organs of the future


  1. Glen

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  2. Tanner

    I will abstain from comments.

  3. Bryan

    Well done, the sentence beautiful and is timely

  4. Dillon

    I already have it

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