Silk from Slime

5 Dec 2012

Pacific hagfish in their native habitat
First of all, a big thank you to the Sutherland Handweaving Gallery and Teaching Studio for discussing this topic on their Facebook page. I don’t know if I would have learned about it otherwise.

 

In the past, we’ve written about the wonders of spider silk and why scientists are working to find ways to replicate or harvest it. Well, researcher Atsuko Negishi thinks she might have a sustainable solution: hagfish slime.

 

The name might need some work, but the science is sound, albeit a little gross. When threatened, hagfish secrete a slime that contains tens of thousands of protein threads. These threads are said to have amazing mechanical properties that rival the silk produced by spiders. Negishi and other researchers isolated and refined threads which they then spun and used to produce fibers and films.

 

Negishi believes these fibers can then be used to make high-performance textiles that are strong, resistant to temperature extremes, and extremely lightweight. We can’t wait to see what further research brings and what textiles are made of this amazing slime—although we do hope scientists come up with a less gooey-sounding name. 


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