Research on Capitol Hill

Faculty Mentor

Randolph V. Lewis


Natural spider silks have long been recognized for their combination of incredible strength and elasticity. Spider silk is more elastic than nylon, tougher than Kevlar, and stronger than steel by weight. Due to an inability to farm spiders, much work has been done to produce spider silks in transgenic hosts for large -scale production. Our work was done using recombinant spider silk proteins produced in transgenic goats and the bacteria E. coli.

More recently spider silks have also been recognized for their biocompatibility and lack of immunogenicity. Spider silks' incredible strength and ability to be implanted safely within the body makes them highly desirable for use in industry and the medical field. Recently our team has developed a novel procedure to solvate recombinant spider silks in pure water, allowing them to be used safely in a variety of in vivo applications.

Uses for spider silk coatings and adhesives are very broad. The focus of the research described here is to coat medical implants and other medical materials. The application of a spider silk coating to materials such as heart stents, implants, and catheters will drastically increase their biocompatibility, decrease the chance of infection as well as recovery time due to decreased tissue growth in response to the foreign object. Coatings can also be functionalized to release antibiotics, antifungals, and other medications. These coatings have shown promise in adhering to silicone and increasing the hydrophilicity of the naturally hydrophobic silicone surface. As for adhesives they have applications varying from the medical field to the textile industry and their strength rivals that of conventional glues on the market. These adhesives can be applied to wood, plastics, stainless steel, silicone, and many other substrates.

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Research On Capitol Hill 2016

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