Scientists at Utah State University (USU) have been perfecting the development of spider silk protein for more than 20 years so that it can be used in more commercial applications like cosmetics.
The biocompatible material is used as a building block for super strong fibers, innovative medical devices, and dermatology products, which was used for the first time as a cosmetic ingredient in 2013.
Spider silk, is a protein which is similar to natural spider silk and Germany-based AMSilk claimed to have developed the world’s first industrial manufacturing process for skin care applications back in December.
Now, professor Randy Lewis, part of the first group to successfully clone spider genes, says his team at USU is still working on cloning the vast majority of genes that spiders use to make their silk in the hope that it will benefit commercial applications like cosmetics.
“Once we had the genes, then we had the methodology to start spinning that out,” the professor explains.
“We have different mechanisms we use to produce spider silk proteins. Currently we are harvesting proteins from E. coli bacteria, transgenic goats, alfalfa plants, and silkworms.
The Spider Silk Lab, housed within the Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute (SBI) on USU’s campus, is the epicenter for conducting research on these proteins, and for spinning and testing proteins to determine their strength and validity for various market applications.
Several rounds of research, testing and refining the processes involved in the production, harvesting and purification of multiple types of the synthetic protein have been conducted.
“We feel enthusiastic about the commercial potential of synthetic spider silk,” said Robert Behunin, Vice President for Advancement and Commercialization.
“It’s always exciting to see valuable research being conducted by faculty and students enter the marketplace and help revolutionize an industry.”
Spider silk can add smoothness and moisture management to the skin, leaving a silky feeling.
The University expects to have the new facility up and running to provide proteins to commercial partners by late Spring of 2014.
The aim of the facility is to produce enough protein for a wide variety of prototypes to indicate what a commercial partner could expect to create for the marketplace.