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Published On September 22, 2012

TECHNOLOGY

Silk's Healing Touch

Silk’s strength makes it an asset in the medical field.

III

Act in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which Bottom alludes to the healing benefits of spider silk: “I shall desire you of more acquaintance, good Master Cobweb. If I cut my finger, I shall make bold with you.”

 

5

Millennia during which silk, which is biocompatible, has been used in sutures

 

2011

Year in which scientists published a study describing how they grew a healthy layer of skin by harvesting spider silk, weaving it into a mesh on a steel frame and seeding the mesh with cells and nutrients

 

140

Degrees Fahrenheit at which one vaccine and two antibiotics were able to remain potent for two weeks or more by stabilizing them in a silk protein, as found in a study by Tufts University; the silk prevented the drugs’ bioactive molecules from changing, thus preserving their potency

 

150,000

Dollars awarded to William Marcotte, a professor in genetics and biochemistry at Clemson University, to support his research on how to insert a spider’s silk-making genes into plants to produce synthetic silk for artificial tendons, cell scaffolds for bone and cartilage implants, and for other uses

 

2

Number of surgeries that bone graft patients commonly undergo; once fractured bones are healed, the second operation removes the implants (often made of titanium or ceramic, both of which can cause health problems) that are used to hold bone pieces tightly together; by replacing these with silk scaffolds, the second procedure might one day be eliminated, because silk degrades naturally after healing

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