Researchers have often "looked over nature’s shoulder", sometimes with amazing results. Now the lacewing was given this honor. The way they put their eggs on bend-resistant stems, researchers want to use for new films, globules or capsules. COMPAMED has asked how far the process has progressed.
What do you have in mind?
Schmidt: The common green lacewing produces the outlined silk proteins in a gland. They are excreted onto the leaf surface. Then the green lacewing lays an egg into the protein secretion and pulls it upwards, thereby producing the fiber. In our case, we initially produce the protein using bacteria. Then we need to obtain the protein in pure form so that we can have it in powder form for instance. We subsequently produce the materials using this powder. These can be fibers but also films, globules or capsules – all of these are possible options.
You want to use the material in medical technology. What are some potential applications?
Schmidt: Due to the flexural rigidity of the material, scaffolds made of green lacewing silk are conceivable for example. Coatings on implants are also possible. There are several examples where spider silk is used to coat breast implants to prevent the body’s rejection response. This would also be possible using green lacewing silk.
Is there any early research on the biocompatibility of green lacewing silk?
Schmidt: The University of Bayreuth has also completed some preliminary work in this regard to examine the cell growth. However, further tests are still absolutely essential.
How long is the "green lacewing" project going to run?
Schmidt: The project that is funded by the "Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR)" started in September 2014 and will end in August of this year. At that point, the main portion of the project, the allocation of “artificial“ green lacewing silk as well as the material considerations, will have been completed. This is subsequently followed by future projects pertaining to material development.