Soon, whenever we buy silk products they will be much stronger. US researchers have created genetically modified silkworms that can spin silk far stronger and with more elasticity than the normal silk produced by the worms.
This breakthrough comes from the University of Wyoming. Their goal is to produce silk from worms that has the toughness of spider silk; which weight-for-weight, is stronger than steel. Other applications include the biomedical field, bulletproof vests, sports gear, airbags for vehicles, and just about anything you can think up that needs to be tough and flexible.
In the past they have tried to transplant silk-producing DNA from spiders into silkworms, but with limited success. They generally did not produce enough silk to make it worthwhile. But that is no longer the case. Researchers have produced genetically modified silkworms that seem to be producing a composite of worm and spider silk in large quantities. So far the results are impressive and the silkworm silk is just as strong as spider silk. With all of those applications, you can see why they are excited. We are one step closer to being able to produce toughened silk commercially.
While this looks great for the commercial sector, the worry is what might happen should these worms escape into the wild. It doesn’t seem like a silkworm producing spider silk would have an advantage in nature; but the truth is, we just don’t know.