Soon Silkworms and Spiders Will Be Able to Mend Our Broken Bones

Ah, yes. The future. It is a time where your bones will still break but silkworms will have your back. If the thought of piecing together your brittle skeleton with metal plates is unappealing, scientists are developing "silk screws" as an easier, stronger alternative.

According to a paper published in Nature Communications,

The silk screws remained in the bone for up to eight weeks before gradually being reabsorbed by the body, eliminating the need for surgical removal. And since silk is invisible on X-ray radiographs, the screws don't obstruct doctors' views of the healing process around the wound.

When you've fallen down and shattered your weak frame, the insertion of alloy metal plates can be brutally painful and they can swell within the body. The development of the silk alternative could be the precise way to become a hybrid human-luxury product, as silk is—when stretched—reportedly five times stronger than steel.

Spiders are also being turned to for their emissions, but they're too busy killing each other to produce enough of the stuff. But that isn't stopping scientists. Instead, synthetics that imitate silkworm and spider silks are being developed.

Spiber uses bacteria to produce spidroin, a main structural protein in spider silk. One gram of the protein (named Qmonos, from kumo-no-su, the Japanese phrase for "spiderweb") produces about 5.6 miles of artificial silk — enough to make hundreds of silk screws that can be used for bone fractures.

A professor at Utah State University has even coaxed his goats into making silk through a program called Araknitek. The day is not far off when a broken wrist is patched together with spider silk derived from goat milk, which is a future I welcome.

[Image via Berkeley]