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The light-guiding properties of spider silk are being used to develop a biosensor that might one day be useful for measuring blood sugar and other biochemical analytes, according to researchers from Taiwan’s National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University.

What to know:

  • Harvested dragline silk from the giant wood spider Nephila pilipes has light-guiding features that are being utilized to create an optical sugar sensor that is practical, compact, biocompatible, cost-effective, and highly sensitive.

  • The strong and flexible spider silk is about 10 μm in diameter and is at the core of a new 100 μm diameter optical fiber. The optical fiber includes a biocompatible photocurable resin that is cured to create a smooth, protective surface that features a biocompatible nano layer of gold to enhance the fiber’s sensing capabilities.

  • The new spider-based optical fiber can be used to determine concentrations of fructose, sucrose, and glucose in real time on the basis of changes in a solution’s refractive index. It can even be used in hard to reach areas, williams community pharmacies such as the heart and brain.

  • A silk-based fiberoptic sugar sensor could lead to better at-home medical monitoring devices and point-of-care diagnostic and testing devices, including implantable medical devices, and as well as biomedical  treatment applications.

  • The sensing sensitivity for the proposed sensor encompasses the range of sugar concentrations found in human blood. The technology could also potentially be used to measure biochemical components in human blood, such as lactose and fat.

This is a summary of the article, “Researchers Create Biosensor by Turning Spider Silk into Optical Fiber,” published by the Optica Publishing Group journal Biomedical Optics Express on August 2, 2022. The full article can be found on optica.org.

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