After five years of work, scientists in the UK have found a way to create synthetic spider silk that’s loaded with antibiotic properties, and could help deliver drugs and close open wounds with a decreased risk of infection.
While it might seem odd, spider silk is actually a pretty incredible material when it comes to first aid. It’s biocompatible, biodegradable, protein-based, and it isn’t known to cause any sort of immune, inflammatory or allergic reactions.
In a new, versatile approach to functionalizing recombinant spider silk, L-azidohomoalanine is introduced residue-specifically in the minispidroin protein 4RepCT through expression in an E. coli methionine auxotroph. Both fluorophores and the antibiotic levofloxacin are attached to this bio-orthogonal amino acid using copper-catalyzed click chemistry, either before or after the silk fibers are self-assembled.