The creators of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man invented an amazing fiction but perhaps, unknowingly, they were actually onto something real.
While the printed Spider-Man uses webbing to swing from sky-scraper to sky-scraper through the city streets to save lives, research is now proving that spiders and humans actually are highly biocompatible and that spider silk can indeed help us to heal.
Amazingly, new developments are currently using spider and silkworm silk in a wide variety of medical applications.
A report by Keiron Monks on CNN.com details how zoologist and professor, Fritz Vollrath of Oxford University, is harnessing the powers of arachnids for use in our bodies.
Spiders spin their webs from their abdomens by turning liquid protein into silk. The thread-like product is extremely flexible but pound-for-pound, it’s actually stronger than steel.
According to CNN.com, spider and silk-worm silk is currently being tested for use in sutures, nerve and bone repair, brain implants, knee replacements and as artificial skin.
The report details how delicate silk biodegrades easily and is perfect for ultra-fine stitching needed for some delicate procedures. It can also provide scaffolding to support the regeneration of peripheral nerves.
In the brain, ultra-thin silk-based electronics can melt away rapidly inside the body after being used, providing for exceptional ease of use.
And for burn victims, silk grafting can potentially create new skin to cover damaged areas.
Damaged cartilage could even be replaced by silk material molded to the right shape.
The future of humans and spiders working as a team is exciting. So exciting that it might just be enough to keep my arachnophobia at bay, at least in the doctor’s office.