I had not realized that there’s an international drive to produce artificial insect silk until this morning. According to a news item on Nanowerk,
CSIRO [Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] scientist Dr Tara Sutherland and her team have achieved another important milestone in the international quest to artificially produce insect silk. They have hand-drawn fine threads of honeybee silk from a ‘soup’ of silk proteins that they had produced transgenically.
These threads were as strong as threads drawn from the honeybee silk gland, a significant step towards development of coiled coil silk biomaterials.
“It means that we can now seriously consider the uses to which these biomimetic materials can be put,” Dr Sutherland said.
“We used recombinant cells of bacterium E. coli to produce the silk proteins which, under the right conditions, self-assembled into similar structures to those in honeybee silk.
If I understand this rightly, ‘tinkering’ with bacterium E. coli makes this a transgenic system and I believe it’s a GEO (genetically engineered organism) and not a GMO (genetically modified organism). In any event, it’s also biomimetic because this process mimics a biological system.
On the practical side of things, insect silk could potentially be used for tough, lightweight textiles and medical applications such as sutures. You can read more about this in the Nanowerk news item.
A Purdue University study has added more evidence that silver nanoparticles are toxic to fish. According to the news item on physorg.com,
Tested on fathead minnows ╨ an organism often used to test the effects of toxicity on aquatic life — nanosilver suspended in solution proved toxic and even lethal to the minnows. When the nanosilver was allowed to settle, the solution became several times less toxic but still caused malformations in the minnows.
“Silver nitrate is a lot more toxic than nanosilver, but when nanosilver was sonicated, or suspended, its toxicity increased tenfold,” said Maria Sepulveda, an assistant professor of forestry and natural resources whose findings were published in the journal Ecotoxicology. “There is reason to be concerned.”
Coincidentally, Dr. David Cramb, director of the Nanoscience Program and professor in the department of Chemistry at the University of Calgary, and his colleagues have published a paper about a new methodology they are developing to measure the impact of nanoparticles (no specifics about which ones) on human health and the environment. From the news release on Eureka Alert, [Mar.4.10 ETA since I think the Eureka doesn't last long, here's a link to the same news on Azonano]
Cramb, director of the Faculty of Science’s nanoscience program, and his researchers have developed a methodology to measure various aspects of nanoparticles in the blood stream of chicken embryos. Their discovery is published in the March online edition of Chemical Physics Letters.
“With the boom in nanomaterials production there is an increasing possibility of environmental and/or human exposure. Thus there is a need to investigate their potential detrimental effects,” says Cramb. “We have developed very specialized tools to begin measuring such impacts.”
To close today off, I got a news release from poet Heather Haley (Vancouver, Canada based) about her latest local appearance,
Heather Haley was a member of Vancouver punk bands, the all-girl Zellots and the .45s with Randy Rampage and Brad Kent. Long-lost video of the Zellots will be screened and Heather will interviewed for a live webcast. She will perform poetry from her new collection, “Three Blocks West of Wonderland.” Hope to *see* you there.
ROCK AGAINST PRISONS Live Video Retrospective Tuesday, March 9, 2010 7:00pm – 11:55pm
Little Mountain Gallery 195 east 26th Ave Vancouver, BC
On March 9th, the social forces will be mounting an assault on the staid and the bland. From a Punk Rock Swap Meet to a Celebrity Auction, from an ‘umplugged’ stage to a Grand Slam Poetry Karaoke by some of the big stars of 1979, we are getting the Old Gang Together. We review the fabulous footage by doreen grey from the seminal 1979 gig and plan out the 2010 resurgence of the Vancouver Explosion.
Come on out and celebrate Vancouver’s living heritage with those who made it happen: Rabid, Female Hands, Devices, Zellots, Tunnel Canary, AKA, Subhumans. Special appearances. Door Prizes. Live Webcast and Kissing Booth. Fishnet stockings. Oodles of prime swag and fixins. Your every 1979 Punk nightmare come beautifully true.
You can also check out Heather’s latest work on her website.