Researchers at China's Donghua University inserted spider genes into the DNA of silkworms resulting in worms that can spin fibers six times tougher than the bulletproof material Kevlar. They used the gene editing technology CRISPR to replace the silkworm gene that codes for its silk protein with one from a particular East Asian orb-weaving spider.
People have been cultivating silkworms for thousands of years, unwinding their cocoons to provide material for textiles. But their silk breaks easily. Spiders have the opposite problem: They make incredible silks, but the arachnids are hard to cultivate. One hundred silkworms can hang around peaceably in a small space, whereas 100 confined spiders will attack one another, until only one or two are left alive[…]
To commercially produce the spider silk fibers, [biotechnologist Junpeng] Mi says he and his colleagues will need to cross-breed their research-grade silkworms with commercial strains that are used for large-scale silk cultivation. He says the fibers, which are biodegradable, might find first use in surgical sutures.