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Dr Chen Jianming publishes revolutionary spider silk research work in Nature Communications

31 Jan 2024

Research & Innovation

Dr Chen Jianming, Research Assistant Professor, recently published his ground breaking research work "Replicating shear-mediated self-assembly of spider silk through microfluidics" in Nature Communications on 15 January 2024.

The research work has been the centre of attention and highlighted in over 18 news outlets with a ranking in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric. The study is a result of an international collaboration between PolyU and RIKEN, a national research and development agency in Japan and the largest comprehensive research institution renowned for high-quality research in a diverse range of scientific disciplines.

The research, which spanned approximately 3.5 years, sought to replicate the self-assembly process of spider silk under native-like conditions. The team used microfluidics as a method which mimics the natural spinning process of spider silk to introduce complex triggers that facilitate the transition from soluble proteins to solid fibre.

The team developed a microfluidic system that can directly visualise the morphological changes during self-assembly and simultaneously modify the structural transition within the fibres. This system produces continuous, robust fibres with a fascinating hierarchical structure and diameter of 5-10 µm.

The research focuses on the role of shear stress as a trigger, and shows its crucial impact on fibre assembly and the β-sheet structure, which is responsible for the extraordinary mechanical strength of natural spider silk.

This successful research project combines elements of biochemistry, materials science, fluid mechanics and computational modelling. The results and understanding of the self-assembly mechanism provide valuable insights into aqueous biomimetic spinning methods and inspire the design of high-performance materials.

The full text of the paper can be accessed at

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