Spider silk as a load bearing biomaterial: tailoring mechanical properties via structural modifications
Spider silk shows great potential as a biomaterial: in addition to biocompatibility and biodegradability, its strength and toughness are greater than native biological fibres (e.g.collagen), with toughness exceeding that of synthetic fibres (e.g.nylon). Although the ultimate tensile strength and toughness at failure are unlikely to be limiting factors, its yield strain of 2% is insufficient, particularly for biomedical application because of the inability to mimic the complex ultrastructure of natural tissues with current tissue engineering approaches. To harness the full potential of spider silk as a biomaterial, it is therefore necessary to increase its yield strain. In this paper, we discuss the means by which the mechanical properties of spider silk, particularly the yield strain, can be optimized through structural modifications.