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Spider technology

Posted by on March 12th 2013

Professor Fritz Vollrath has studied how spiders build their webs.  “The strange thing to me,” he says, “was always the question of why scientists were not more interested in them.  I mean, here is a creature which, according to its size, can build from its own body a structure on the scale of a football pitch overnight,. every night, and can catch the equivalent of an aeroplane in it.  Why would you not want to study how it did that?”His researches have led to a technique to reel silk directly from the spider and show the importance of spider webs for humans.  “What we found by studying the silk as it is made,” he says, “was that at a molecular level it has something in it, a recurrent little motif like a melody in a tune.  It is this which helps to give the silk its entirely orderly structure. We don’t know why that motif is in them, but what we do know is that same motif is also in the filaments that hold our own cells together. Three amino acids which give them what you might call a particular signature tune. And when the cells of our body come into contact with this pattern in the spider silks, it appears that they can recognise it. They understand it and they will react by attaching to it and growing along it.”

See this video.