Silica spider silk fusion

Scientists at Nottingham Trent University have joined forces with two US universities to pioneer collaborative research in protein fusion.


The research, which will explore innovative ways of combining the toughness of spider silk with the intricate structure of silica, is being undertaken in a partnership with Tufts University and the University of Washington.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in America has recognised the potential of the work and the Nottingham Trent University team has secured grant aid worth more than $425,000 over five years.


Scientists from the University’s Biomolecular and Materials Interface Research Group, led by Professor Carole Perry, are now focusing on how the fusion of proteins – and the resulting novel nanocomposites – could be used for dental implants and repairs.


Both silica and silk are cleverly constructed and incredibly versatile. Silks form into fibres with remarkable mechanical properties. Silica is widespread in biological systems and serves different functions including support and protection in single-celled organisms through to plants and animals. The team believes that the proteins in these two natural products can be genetically tailored, with enormous potential for future applications.


Tufts University has been researching silks for more than a decade and took the lead in the funding bid to the NIH. Nottingham Trent University’s share of the $1.3 million allocation will help fund a postdoctoral post and a PhD studentship as well as running costs and travel between the two research centres.


Professor Perry said: ‘We are very excited about this new grant. We’ve worked with both Tufts University and the University of Washington over the last year to prepare the new nanocompsites, and now, through this funding, we have the real possibility of revolutionising the medical industry through its application.’