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, 5 (3), 035002

Hagfish Slime Threads as a Biomimetic Model for High Performance Protein Fibres

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Hagfish Slime Threads as a Biomimetic Model for High Performance Protein Fibres

Douglas S Fudge et al. Bioinspir Biomim.

Abstract

Textile manufacturing is one of the largest industries in the world, and synthetic fibres represent two-thirds of the global textile market. Synthetic fibres are manufactured from petroleum-based feedstocks, which are becoming increasingly expensive as demand for finite petroleum reserves continues to rise. For the last three decades, spider silks have been held up as a model that could inspire the production of protein fibres exhibiting high performance and ecological sustainability, but unfortunately, artificial spider silks have yet to fulfil this promise. Previous work on the biomechanics of protein fibres from the slime of hagfishes suggests that these fibres might be a superior biomimetic model to spider silks. Based on the fact that the proteins within these 'slime threads' adopt conformations that are similar to those in spider silks when they are stretched, we hypothesized that draw processing of slime threads should yield fibres that are comparable to spider dragline silk in their mechanical performance. Here we show that draw-processed slime threads are indeed exceptionally strong and tough. We also show that post-drawing steps such as annealing, dehydration and covalent cross-linking can dramatically improve the long-term dimensional stability of the threads. The data presented here suggest that hagfish slime threads are a model that should be pursued in the quest to produce fibres that are ecologically sustainable and economically viable.

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