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Spiders can help build new hearts


Researchers in Europe have been investigating the viability of using spider silk to develop artificial cardiac tissue.

In what would be a major breakthrough, as the loss of cardiac muscle cells to date has been irreversible, a collaboration team from Germany’s Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the University of Bayreuth has taken a significant step in developing a workable process.

A protein in the silk is the key ingredient and Professor Thomas Scheibel, holder of the Chair for Biomaterials at the University of Bayreuth, successfully produced it from garden spiders – in the lab – with the help of E. coli bacteria. The amount and quality which could be developed in this way suggests it ‘could be suitable for engineering cardiac tissue’. Add to this the ‘possibilities of printing artificial silk proteins using 3D printing technology’ and the team believes these are the ‘first steps towards future methods for engineering functional cardiac tissue’.

This is the latest cardiac-related innovation being progressed on the continent. Earlier this year scientists in Switzerland produced a silicone heart that could pave the way for the development of a fully functioning artificial replacement.

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