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.