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Science in a spin over spider web

Artificial fiber stronger than silk

(CNN) -- Israeli scientists have come up with a way to genetically engineer spiders' webs without the help of the eight-legged creatures.

The development, carried out during the past two years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, potentially paves the way for commercial development of the fiber, said to be stronger than silk.

The webs, created in a laboratory from genes found in the bodies of spiders, contain almost identical properties to genuine spider webs.

Spider webs -- the fibers of which are known as spider silks -- are incredibly strong, but because of the territorial nature of spiders, they are virtually impossible to farm.

That makes it difficult to grow them in large quantities.

Scientists have been trying for years to produce webs that have the same properties as those made by spiders.

In order to duplicate the proteins found in spider webs, the scientists used genes from garden spiders, which contain a protein known as dragline silk, a strong and elastic fiber.

"We developed a methodology for producing great quantities of the appropriate proteins, which is based on infecting the insect cells with the genetically engineered virus, in order to produce the fiber," said developmental biologist Dr. Uri Gat, one of the scientists involved in the research.

Potential industrial uses for the manufactured web -- which has a diameter of one-thousandth of a millimeter -- include surgical thread, bullet-proof vests, micro-conductors, optical fibers and fishing rods.

Scientists from Munich University in Germany and Oxford University in England also worked on the development.

The findings were published in the journal Microbial Cell Factories last month.

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