Questions for ‘Bacteria make ‘spider silk’ that’s stronger than steel’

a golden orb weaver spider on a web

A golden orb weaver, also known as a banana spider, spins her web to catch prey. Scientists used DNA from this species to teach bacteria to make super-strong silk threads.

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To accompany “Bacteria make ‘spider silk’ that’s stronger than steel


Before Reading:

1.  A number of animals can make silk. Name at least two types.

2.  Many scientists and engineers have been trying to make fibers like those found in spider webs. Why would they want to do that?

During Reading:

1.  What are proteins? What are spidroins and where are they made?

2.  What are spinnerets and what do they do?

3.  From what chemical ingredients is spider silk made?

4.  How is Jingyao Li’s team using bacteria in silk-making? What did these researchers do to get bacteria to make building blocks for silk?

5.  Young-Shin Jun reported on one measure of the strength of synthetic silk. What did she find?

6.  How did Jingyao Li’s team turn the bacterial proteins into a silken fiber?

After Reading:

1.  Anna Rising emphasizes that the new synthetic silk is both strong and stretchy. Why might that stretchiness be as valuable as its strength? What types of things might these fibers be used for that relies on that stretchiness (things that wouldn’t work if the fibers didn’t stretch)?