Spider silk has always been a material that amazes scientists for different applications, from electronics to re-growing bones. Add to the list of possible uses a new and exciting one: in the future, it might be possible to grow a new heart in the laboratory using spider silk.
The idea of creating a new set of kidneys or a heart on a petri dish sounds nice, but it comes with a lot of challenges. The biggest obstacle to overcome is finding a non-toxic, suitable scaffold structure for tissues to grow around. A recent study published on PLOS ONE revealed that spider silk might be the perfect match.
Spidroin, the building block of spider silk, has already been proven to be suitable for growing cartilages and tendons. Researchers at the Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology tried to see if the same method could be used for growing heart cells. For this, they seeded spidroin with heart cells taken from newborn rats. In a couple of days, a structure of heart cells grew around the silk and the cells were able to function normally.
There is probably a long way to go before this biomedical technology will be available, but the project promises more successful organ transplants in the future.