Spider Web Silk Might Provide a New Material for Sutures : SCIENCE FILE / An exploration of issues and trends affecting science, medicine and the environment

<i> From Times staff and wire reports</i>

The delicate yet tough strands of silk spun by ordinary spiders may provide surgeons with a new material for stitching up wounds, according to a researcher at the University of Wyoming. “Spider silk is very resistant to climate changes, bacteria, enzymes and fungal growth,” M. Delwar Hussain told a meeting of the American Assn. of Pharmaceutical Scientists. “We think it could be a good substitute for sutures in tendon and ligament wounds, or with artificial prostheses.”

Hussain reported that spider silk was not toxic to the cells of mice and that it proved stable and strong when inserted under the skin and inside muscle. But before researchers try using spider silk sutures on humans, they must first attempt to clone the protein components to produce sizable amounts of it, Hussain said.