We have all heard of spider silk. Spider silk is an amazing substance for several different reasons. For example, spider silk counts as the strongest naturally produced material on the planet. Spider silk has been used to make clothing for centuries, and militaries around the world are experimenting, and using, Kevlar made from resilient spider silk. Spider silk also has a few medical applications that have proven successful. Most recently, researchers in Sweden have learned to synthesize material that closely resembles spider silk. The researchers are doing this with the hopes that the spider silk could be used for lung reconstruction.
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have created a lung-surfactant by mimicking spider silk. This lung-surfactant is just as effective as similar drugs on the market, but the surfactant can be used to rebuild the malformed alveoli found in many preterm infants. The surfactant works by reducing the surface tension in the alveoli. This, in turn, allows the alveoli of preterm babies to become inflated right at the moment of birth, which is life saving.
Earlier surfactants changed the medical community by allowing preterm babies a much better chance at survival. An earlier surfactant, and the most used drug in the world today, Curosurf, has its own problems. First of all, Curosurf is made from pig lungs. More specifically, a particular protein must be extracted from the pig lungs in order to make the drug, and this extraction process is very expensive, and not feasible for large-scale production. The researchers behind the revolutionary drug Curosurf were also from the same institute where the spider silk is now being studied. The researchers believe that the proteins from spider silk will cost much less than current methods, and could be produced on a much larger scale. The researchers in charge of the study are confident that proteins from spider silk will be used during every lung surgery in the future.
What is the strangest object that you have heard was made from spider silk?