Hey Cosplayers: Mutant Silkworms Spin Fluorescent Silk
Fashion for Nonhumans
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.
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