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NDSU researcher receives grant to examine, mimic spider silk

Photo of Amanda Brooks

Brooks

Amanda Brooks, NDSU assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, has received a $145,000 National Science Foundation grant to explore uses for spider silk. Her project is titled "EAGER: Improving the Length and Consistency of a Biomimetic Silk Fiber for Industrial Applications."

“Spider silk is one of the most promising biomaterials with applications only limited by your imagination. However, despite decades of research, this promise has yet to be realized,” Brooks explained. “In order to reproduce the amazing performance of spider silk, a low-density fiber capable of stopping a 747 airplane, we must mimic both critical genetic elements and fiber spinning technologies.”

According to Brooks, researchers are good at copying the genetics of spider silk, but converting purified silk protein into a fiber has been largely neglected, resulting in inconsistent and unusable fibers.

“Our newly-funded NSF project is part of a larger research direction to understand how proteins assemble to create high performance fibers by focusing on the chemical and mechanical processes that occur during fiber spinning,” Brooks explained. “We have made significant progress and developed a newly patented 3D printed device that can produce fibers with diameters in the range of natural fibers. During this project. we will use our technology to produce consistent fibers of a length that can be mechanically assessed as our next critical step in gaining understanding, and ultimately producing, a commercially viable spider silk product.”

The NSF grant number is 1746111.

Brooks joined the NDSU faculty in 2014. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and her doctorate in molecular biology at the University of Wyoming, Laramie.

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