Mutant Transgenic Silkworms Make Glowing Silk | The Mary Sue
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Hey Cosplayers: Mutant Silkworms Spin Fluorescent Silk

Fashion for Nonhumans


Mutant silkworms may not be joining the X-Men any time soon, but they are certainly producing fabric that would be great for some other cosplay purposes.

By imbuing the worms with DNA from organisms with glowing genes, the silk these worms produce fluoresces under black light. Only three colors are available so far (green from jellyfish, red and orange from different kinds of coral).


Scientists bred and reared more than 20,000 of these transgenic silkworms in the lab, feeding them mulberry leaves, harvesting their shimmering threads and working out how to turn the raw, glowing cocoon silk into a functional material. Because the processing steps for normal silk — such as cooking cocoons at 100 degrees Celsius — destroy fluorescent proteins, the scientists needed to find a slightly different way to produce the fabrics. In the end, they found that a combination of slightly lower temperatures, an alkaline solution, and a vacuum produced softened cocoons that could be reeled.

(Geekosystem via Wired)

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