Randy Lewis, the researcher at Utah is the world’s expert on synthetic spider silk. He said after Nexia’s failure that he was sure that synthetic spider silk would eventually succeed. So perhaps, 10 years on the tricks have finally been learned?
The puzzle is though that earlier this month Randy Lewis published a paper in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on producing spider silk from transgenic silkworms. The paper commented: “standard recombinant protein production platforms have provided limited progress due to their inability to assemble spider silk proteins into fibers”. That means goats.
So, which is it going to be: goats or silkworms? And can spider silk, after decades of study, make the grade? A straw in the wind may be the forthcoming exhibition at the V&A Museum in London of a spectacularly gorgeous cape made laboriously from natural spider silk. It took 4 years and 1.2 million spiders to produce (which is why we need a synthetic process). What might spur researchers on are the remarkable properties of the garment. The cape is a shimmering gold and this is the natural colour of the silk. It also reputedly has a quite special feel, unlike that of normal silk.
Perhaps 2012 is going to be the year of spider silk after all this time.