Chemically modified artificial spider silk

Spider silk is biocompatible, biodegradable, strong and elastic, which makes it ideal for biomedical applications. However, harvesting of silk from spiders is not feasible for large scale industrial purposes and current biotechnological approaches face problems with low recombinant protein yields as well as difficulties reproducing the native mechanisms of fibre spinning. The aim of the present project is to develop a novel method based on bioconjugation with polyethylene glycol for obtaining chemically modified artificial spider silk in a biomimetic way. The developed method would have several advantages in comparison to a purely biotechnological approach as it would ease recombinant spider silk protein (spidroin) expression in bacteria by circumventing the requirement for all three spidroin domains, allow crosslinking between spidroins as well as easy tuning of material properties by varying the bioconjugation reaction conditions. Successful implementation of the project will contribute to the development of several defined specialization areas of the Latvian Smart Specialization Strategy (RIS3) – biomedicine, medical technologies, biopharmacy and biotechnology. The project results will be applicable to development of new biomaterials with potentially broad applications in biomedicine and nanotechnology and thereby contribute to transformation of economy of Latvia towards high added value products.
To achieve the project objectives, an interdisciplinary study combining applied and basic research in the fields of chemical and biological sciences, and materials engineering (field classification codes 1.4, 1.6 and 2.5) will be carried out, particularly involving bioorganic chemistry, molecular and structural biology, biotechnology and materials science research. The project is unrelated to economic activities as it is implemented individually by a scientific institution, which carries out an independent study for obtaining more knowledge and better understanding (NACE code 72.19). The following activities will be performed within the framework of the project: 1) research for gaining new knowledge and developing a new technology; 2) dissemination of the research results, including publishing of 2 scientific articles, presentations at 9 conferences and informing of the project target group; 3) protection of intellectual property rights.
Planned total costs of the project are 561 334 euro. Place of implementation – Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (LIOS). Planned time period of project implementation is June 1st, 2019 to May 31st, 2022. The project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

Project implementation updates


11th of March – signing of contract about project implementation.
8th of April – publication in the newspaper “Dienas Bizness” “Ar zirnekļiem nav kā ar govīm”.
23rd of April – Latvian Radio 2 broadcast “Nākotnes pietura” Physical chemist Kristaps Jaudzems and story about making spider silk
1st of June – start of the project. More info here.
27th of September – Spider web laboratory as part of European Researcher Night at Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis. More info here.
27th of November – publication in the internet portal DELFI “Pašmāju zinātnes rokzvaigzne cer drukāt ietvarus mākslīgajiem orgāniem”.


24th of January – lecture for participants of Latvian State Biology Olympiad about the project and our obtained results. More info here.
27th of February – Radio Naba broadcast “Zinātnes vārdā” Chemistry of spider webs and 3D models
10th of March – Presentation “Spider silk: from basic research to artificial fibres” at a meeting with Finnish research institutions and innovative businesses organized by Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA)
1st of June – publication in the journal “Doctus” Ar skatu nākotnē


15th of April – Presentation “Artificial spider silk – its potential as a biomaterial” at the conference “Deep Tech Atelier 2021“.
30th of April – Spider web laboratory as part of European Researcher Night at Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis. More info here.
14th of September – Presentation “Spider silk: from NMR structural studies to mechanism of formation and artificial fibres” at the Instruct-ERIC webinar series “Structure meets function”.
26th of November – presentation and discussion about artificial spider silk and this project as part of the online event “Zinātne Zoomed In 2” organised for 9th-12th grade pupils by the Ministry of Science and Education of Latvia.


25th of March – publication in the journal Advanced Functional Materials titled Engineered Spider Silk Proteins for Biomimetic Spinning of Fibers with Toughness Equal to Dragline Silks.
7th of April – publication in the journal Journal of Biological Chemistry titled The dimerization mechanism of the N-terminal domain of spider silk proteins is conserved despite extensive sequence divergence
19-20th of May – participation at Instruct Biennial Structural Biology Conference, in Utrecht, The Netherlands, with poster presentation “Structural and mechanistic studies of spider silk formation”.
14th of June – publication in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences titled Solution Structure of Tubuliform Spidroin N-Terminal Domain and Implications for pH Dependent Dimerization
15-17th of June – participation at the conference Chemical Sciences in Biological Challenges, in Kuopio, Finland, with oral presentation “Solution and solid-state NMR for studying protein aggregation mechanisms”.
15th of August – publication in the journal Nature Communications titled Spidroin N-terminal domain forms amyloid-like fibril based hydrogels and provides a protein immobilization platform
26th of August – publication in the internet portal DELFI “Neparastie biomateriāli – Latvijā izstrādā medicīnā izmantojamu zirnekļa zīda gēlu”.
31st of August – end of project implementation and submission of final project report.

Comments are closed.