• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Spider Webs Have Healing Properties

INTRODUCTION

Forget about the friendly neighborhood spiderman and bring on the spider-web!! Did that sound a little gross? Well it, would you believe if I tell you, it is one of the best natural healing and reparative elements out there!

It is the constant endeavor of the people around the world to discover agents that can decrease the cost of treatment and also the time of healing. One of the approaches employed since ancient times has been the usage of spider silk in many places like ancient Greece and even in modern places like Bokaro, Jharkhand, India where spider silk is applied on cuts and wounds to stop bleeding and initiate healing.

spider silk

ABOUT THE SPIDER WEB

The spider web consists of proteinaceous silk which is extruded out of the spinneret glands of the spider. The spider web is directly applied on to the wound/cut to promote healing. Spider webs are rich in vitamin K, very essential to the activation of the clotting factors and promoting healing. They also increase the number of fibroblast and collagen synthesis to accelerate wound healing.

Spiders can produce up to seven unique types of silk. Dragline silk (which is the commonest type used) has a strong tensile strength and thus can absorb a lot of energy. Furthermore, spider silk does not show any allergic or inflammatory reaction as it does not act as a foreign body, thus making it one of the best choices for use as medicine.

Spider silk is a hell lot stronger than insect silk. Spider silk is highly resilient and is three times stronger than synthetic fibres like kevlar which is used to make bullet-proof vest! Go figure.

Spider silk

USE AS A BANDAGE

The ancient Greeks used this ‘mystery silk’ as a medicinal bandage. The Greeks used the webs on the soldiers. They firstly used a combination of honey and vinegar to clean the wounds. Then a wad of spider webs would be placed on top and held until the bleeding stopped.

A University in the UK has been able to incorporate the spider silk into a bandage. They produce these silk structures (from E.coli) which have antibiotic properties and add molecules to it to spin it into a bandage. This bandage then disperses the medicine at a constant rate. The silk has been even used for treatment of slow-healing wounds like diabetic ulcers. Using this technique not only was infection prevented due to the antibiotic property of the silk but regeneration was also accelerated as the fibres acted as a temporary structure on which healing occurred before the fibres got biodegraded.

Scientists are constantly engaging in new techniques on how to spin spider silk. Till now spinning techniques have produced spider silk which is about 10 times thicker than natural spider silk. They are even being employed in 3D printers now.

USE AS A BANDAGE

HEALING DAMAGED NERVES

The spider silk is woven and interconnected in a special way which provides for the phenomenal tensile strength. Biologists are working on the production of tiny tubular structures similar to spider silk that can be implanted in patients with damaged nerves. Normally the growth of nerve fibres in the damaged nerve is blocked due to formation of scar tissue. The silk proteins introduced to inhibit the formation of scar tissue allowing regeneration, further, they have a mechanical advantage of bearing strain and body weight and also the human body does not perceive the spider silk as a foreign body.

Another material which has a future role in nerve healing is Hydrogels. Injected into the body they imitate the cell’s natural environment and thus encourage cells to regenerate. Furthermore, additional biomolecules can be added to the 3D structure of hydrogel to be delivered at the site of injury.

So, do not simply let the primitive instinct of fear and disgust overpower you when you accidentally get caught face on in a spider web as you would be able to appreciate its numerous uses and value!

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