SilkyColi: Reprogramming the physical and functional properties of synthetic silks


Gold Medal Award, Undergraduate Division

Runner-Up for Best Manufacturing Project, Undergraduate Division

Top 5 for Best New Basic Part, Undergraduate Division

Top 5 for Best Part Collection, Undergraduate Division


Among natural materials, silk fibers boast unparalleled strength and elasticity. This has made silk ideal for use in apparel, medical sutures, and other high-performance materials. The unique profile of silk arises from the composition of its repetitive protein domains, which varies between species. We aimed to program the physical properties of synthetic silk in two ways: by modularizing spider silk genes and tuning their properties through directed assembly, and by fusing accessory proteins to silkworm and honey bee silks to expand their functionality. To overcome the challenge of creating large, repetitive, GC-rich genes, we adapted Iterative Capped Assembly to ligate spider silk genes in specific ratios, orders, and lengths. The recombinant silks were expressed in E. coli then spun via standard wet spinning. This provides a platform for standardizing the customization of synthetic silk fibers, and exploring their potential as multipurpose biomaterials.