SDSU researchers find unbelievable benefits to black widow spider silk

Posted at 6:44 PM, Oct 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-22 21:44:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- For over a decade, SDSU associate professor of chemistry Gregory Holland has been researching spiders and particularly black widow’s silk.

They’ve come to the realization, through their research, that the properties of black widow silk are stronger than steel and tougher than the Kevlar in bulletproof vests.

Gregory Holland, SDSU associate professor of analytical chemistry and Northwestern chemistry professor Nathan Gianneschi said their collaboration shows the organization of the molecules involved in silk production is more complex than previously thought.

There are companies that use synthetic spider silk but its the specific black widow spider silk that has the top tier benefits.

“The synthetic spider silk its not a bad material, its just not as good as the real thing," Holland said.

Holland says the company that creates synthetic silk actually has partnerships with Adidas and Patagonia. "The most important thing is a spider does it low energy, environmentally friendly. It’s just protein water and salt”.

Once they reach the point where they’re able to identically replicate the silk of a black widow spider, the artificial version could be used in building materials for bridges or environmentally friendly replacements for plastic.

Black widows (Latrodectus hesperus) spin a lightweight thread much stronger than that of other spider species, with draglines that can stretch an extra 25 percent of their length before snapping.

The composition of the spun silk fibers was previously identified, but the structure of the proteins involved in producing them has been more of a mystery, now one step closer.