The Bestiary

Spider Glue: An Eco-Friendly Alternative?

Two newly discovered proteins in spider webs could one day be used in a natural adhesive

October 29, 2009

For most of history, when humans have needed to stick things together, they have turned to the animal kingdom. Animal connective tissues can be boiled down and mixed with acid to make glue.  Don’t worry PETA—many modern glues, like Elmer’s, are no longer animal-based.  But, synthetic glues are often made from petroleum, making them less than eco-friendly.

Now scientists are looking back to the animal world for ‘green’ glue substitutes—but this time they are leaving the horse hooves out of the recipe.  Instead, they are turning to spiders, or, rather, their webs. The glue that makes prey insects stick to spider webs is considered by some scientists to be one of the most powerful biological adhesives.  Now, researchers at the University of Wyoming have discovered two proteins that make certain webs so sticky.

The scientists believe that the genes for these proteins, found in the golden orb weaving spider, could be cloned into bacterial or insect cell lines.  These cells could then be used as biological factories to produce large quantities of the proteins for application in a natural glue—one that skips a trip to the slaughterhouse.

Subscribe

The Scienceline Newsletter

Sign up for biweekly updates

About the Author

Anna Rothschild is a producer and science writer from New York City. After graduating from Brown University with a degree in biology, she worked as a scientist at the American Museum of Natural History where she cloned humpback whale genes into bacteria, lassoed lizards in Floridian forests, and detected fraud in the caviar trade. Now, she reports on everything from life science, to space, to urban legends.

Discussion

1 Comment

Gov-ment came and took ma bay-beh!