For all the unthinkable superpowers Spiderman possesses – wall-crawling ability, ‘spider-sense’, enhanced speed & strength – the webbed warrior’s signature web-slinging mechanics are comparatively underwhelming.
With all due respect to genius creator Stan Lee, was it too much to ask for Spidey to synthesize and shoot his patented silk biologically? We mean, realism and authenticity aren’t exactly the foundations of comic book tales.
But Spiderman is a decent hero all things considered, sticking it to villains all while maintaining that ‘friendly neighbourhood’ vibe. Plus, no one dies or gets injured on his watch (…except the people of New York. And Uncle Ben).
So imagine how much better of a superhero he’d be if his silk-slinging could be used for more than hanging criminals upside down – what if it could be used to heal people?
STRAIGHT OUTTA MARVEL
Antibiotic spider silk – an idea so out there, advanced, farfetched, or whatever you want to call it, that Stan Lee didn’t even consider adding it to Spidey’s arsenal when he debuted in 1962. And remember, this is the same guy that’s spawned stories about mutants living amongst us, and a scientist becoming a giant, green…giant when enraged.
But what seemed too inane 55 years ago is a scientific breakthrough today.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham have one-upped Lee’s web-fluid capsules from Spiderman comics, creating an antibiotic spider silk that can help deliver drugs and close open wounds, with a much lower risk of infection. The super silk is the result of a spider expert and chemist (walking into a bar, and the spider expert goes…ah, we’ll save this for another time) putting their creative minds together.
“Our technique allows the rapid generation of biocompatible, mono or multi-functionalized silk structures for use in a wide range of applications,” said Neil Thomas, corresponding author from the University of Nottingham.
“These will be particularly useful in the fields of tissue engineering and biomedicine.”
Specifically, the Nottingham team noted the spider silk could have applications in drug delivery, wound healing, and regenerative therapies.
DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN
The new restorative spider silk, synthesized from E. coli bacteria, was constructed through ‘click chemistry’, in which the researchers attached groups of antibiotic molecules to the spider silk, forming the antibiotic bandage.
Molecules ‘click’ into place while the silk proteins are spun into fibers. The resulting medium is a fabric, or ‘biodegradable mesh’, that has a wide range of utility in biomedicine.
Thanks to click chemistry, the spider silk is flexible in consistency and usage. It can be used for an array of jobs, as different types of antibiotics can link to the silk too. When used for wound healing, it can act as an antibiotic Band-Aid that expedites the growth of new cells, while keeping harmful bacteria at bay.
“There is the possibility of using the silk in advanced dressings for the treatment of slow-healing wounds such as diabetic ulcers,” said Thomas in a statement.
“Using our technique, infection could be prevented over weeks or months by the controlled release of antibiotics. At the same time, tissue regeneration is accelerated by silk fibers functioning as a temporary scaffold before being biodegraded.”
APPLICATIONS IN REGENERATIVE MEDICINE
Spider silk seems out of place when it comes to science & medicine, but it’s a remarkable material in the first aid field. It’s biocompatible, biodegradable, protein-based, and isn’t linked to any immune, inflammatory, or allergic reactions.
The results so far, have been remarkable. Their technique can be used to create a biodegradable lattice that squashes two spiders with slap (bad analogy?).
Apart from the aforementioned slow release of antibiotics through its molecular attachments, the antibiotic silk can replace the extra cellular matrix in our bodies seamlessly. Our bodies utilize these cells to generate and accelerate the growth of new tissues.
So in terms of regenerative medicine, the antibiotic spider silk compounds can accelerate our bodies naturally healing, stimulating cell production and the growth of tissue, thereby healing any body wounds efficiently.
The Nottingham team has hinted that the last five years of developing the synthetic silk is just the start. They plan to continue with their research, possibly looking into other spiders and their unique qualities for more inspiration.
Or if that fails, they can head to nearest comic book store and find other Marvel or DC superpowers that can be modernized for medicine.
Like the superheroes of Marvel, the RegenerVate team possesses the ability to help those in need – especially if you’re suffering from chronic pain or injury.
From tendon, muscle, and meniscal tears, to arthritis and other ailments, our treatments utilize your body’s own natural healing ability to expedite the recovery process. Call us today at 1-855-847-3975 to schedule an appointment, or stop by one of our RegenerVate locations!