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1,000 Spider Silkomes: The Genetics of Spider Silks

An analysis of the genes underlying silk production in more than 1,000 spiders is presented in Science Advances this week, providing insights that may help in the development of new biomaterials. Spider silks are among the toughest known materials, displaying a combination of high tensile strength, extensibility, and exceptional toughness that is unmatched industrially. As a result, these silks are unique models for renewable, biodegradable, and sustainable biopolymers, yet the entirety of their diversity is unknown. To investigate, a group led by scientists from Keio University and Riken sequenced the silk genes of 1,098 spider species encompassing the entire order Araneae using de novo transcriptome sequencing and assembly, as well as measured the mechanical, thermal, structural, and hydration properties of the dragline silks of 446 spider species. The work reveals the design elements responsible for the extraordinary mechanical and physical performances of spider silks and "will serve as a framework for the future analysis of silk proteins and other structural proteins as biomaterials," the study's authors write.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.