Crop Biotech Update

Gene Editing Technique Used to Develop Spider Silk-producing Silkworm

August 22, 2018

Scientists from Chinese Academy of Sciences and other institutions used gene editing to manipulate silkworms to make spider silk, one of the best silk fibers, with remarkable strength and extensibility. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS).

Spider silk has several applications, including creation of micro-capsules for cancer drugs delivery, damaged nerve repair, and additional strength for bulletproof vests. Thus, the researchers sought ways to produce spider silk for commercial use by applying transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs). The technique used "molecular scissors" to substitute a portion of the silkworm genome with a fragment coming from a golden orb-web spider to develop silkworms that produce spider silk. The silk fiber from the GE silkworm exhibits improved extensibility.

Read the research article in PNAS.