Between June 12 and 15 2019 I attended the International Silk Conference within Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, Italy. The conference covered all matters of silk, covering everything from the History of Silk trade across Europe to advanced materials manufacturing, from the ecology of silk making insects to surgical applications of silk derived products.
David Kaplan opened the first day with a fascinating Plenary Lecture covering around 30 years of silk research by his group and collaborators.
On day 2 Hyuong-Joon Jin presented on the electroproperties of carbonized silk fibres and pyropolymers. Jan Rainey explained the uses of recombinant acioniform proteins and their properties. Kazuharu Arakawa then presented the 1600 species multi gene sequencing project, which the Spider Silk Research Lab is proud to be involved with. Interesting findings include a new MaSp gene and the bagworm genome. Russell Stewart told us about caddis silks, which is a fascinating subject since they’re the only silks I’d have heard of to have abundant phosphorylated serine residues and an extremely low alanine composition. The spinning, properties and use of these fibres is also intriguing. Our collaborator Keiji Numata presented on spinning mechanisms, micelles, terminal domains, new transcripts, Ala/Gly induced structures and polyproline helices. Miguel Oliviera covered hydrogel formations for medical applications including meniscal transplantation, nerve grafts and sutures. Jan Johannson covered the mechanisms of storing spidroins at high concentration and the role of N- and C-termini in fibre formation. Cedrick Dicko looked at 4 species of silkworms and how supercritical CO2 penetration affects silk functionalities. Frederico Bosia presented a great talk on developing mechanical metamaterials based on the properties of spider webs with some fantastic modelling of vibratory conduction in webs. Ben Allardice rounded the day out with his talk on silk-based middle-ear transplants.
Between June 12 and 15 2019 I attended the International Silk Conference within Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, Italy. It was the first time I had attended a conference specializing in all matters of silk, covering everything from the History of Silk trade across Europe to advanced materials manufacturing, from the ecology of silk making insects to surgical applications of silk derived products. Not only that but I met many of the major researchers in the field for the first time and struck up new ideas and potential new collaborations.
The second day concluded with a “round table” discussion on the new frontiers in silk research with Anna Rising, Keiji Numata, Pornanong Aramwit, David Kaplan and David Breslauer presenting cases for new directions. I can’t say anything concrete was laid out but interesting ideas and directions, particularly around recombinants, spinning technologies, green manufacturing and so on, were discussed.
On day 3 we had fascinating presentations, including Yamsi Yadavalli’s on the manufacture of silk-based functional devices including conductive inks, biodegradable films, biosensors, energy storage devices and so on. Tsunenori Kameda showed the depth of his work on hornet silk and the materials his group is deriving from it. Further, he tempted us with a little insight into his recent bagworm silk work. Jose Perez-Rigueiro presented on his interesting work on silkworm and spider tubuliform silk gut fibres. Martin Huminik covered DNA functionalization and phosphate directed self-assembly of Araneus dragline silk for the creation of globular protein nanosurfaces. David Breslauer described the work of Bolt Threads and its efforts to bring environmental friendliness to the fashion industry through harnessing natural proteins. Christian Reikel covered the vast work done at the European synchrotron on spider hierarchical structures, particularly with new insights into skin structure. Giovanna Salice described the program to bring silk production and sericulture to Latin America, before Taiyo Yoshioka presented on the structure-function analysis bagworm silk, explaining why it’s so tough. Tom Scheibel gave an impressive talk on various exciting technologies emanating from the silk program at Bayreuth including nerve conduits and films ad refillable enzyme containers. Chris Holland finished us up with insights into energetic and rheological measurements of ex vivo spun silks.
The final day saw talks from Rangam Rajkhowa on top down properties of silk fibres, and the scaling up processes for silk products and the biomedical implications. Anna Rising gave a terrific presentation on the exciting recombinant spinning technologies being developed in her lab and the properties of the various fibres developed. The finding of a supercontracting silk without proline residues was, I thought, quite amazing. Pornanong Aramwit covered the various properties and cosmetic/medical uses of sericines. Andreas Teuschl reported on fibroin sponges as drug delivery systems. Antonella Motta showed us her work on polyhibrids, artificial foods, gene modifications, powders, gels and other products. Nicola Pugno then showed us proof that ~106 threads of spider silk can lift a man, among other biomechanical feats.