The Tetranychus lintearius mite is an agricultural pest common to the European Atlantic coast but can also benefit society by contributing to materials engineering advances. A new nanomaterial derived from its silk has the ability to penetrate human cells without damaging them, demonstrating promising biomedical properties.

The material characterized by an international research team was discovered to be more resistant than steel, (Left) An adult Tetranychus lintearius mite and (Right) native silk taken directly from a gorse plant and visualized by canning electron microscopy. Source: Antonio Abel Lozano-Pérez et al.(Left) An adult Tetranychus lintearius mite and (Right) native silk taken directly from a gorse plant and visualized by canning electron microscopy. Source: Antonio Abel Lozano-Pérez et al.ultra-flexible, nanosized, biodegradable and biocompatible. The resistance of the mite-produced silk is twice that of spider silk, a standard material used for this type of research, and stronger than steel. With a higher Young’s modulus and nano-scale thickness, the natural nanomaterial can penetrate cells and stimulate cell proliferation without producing toxic effects.

Future uses of the material in pharmacology and biomedicine are suggested by researchers from Murcian Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Development (Spain), Barcelona Institute of Photonic Sciences, University of Western Ontario (Canada), University of Belgrade (Serbia) and University of La Rioja (Spain).

A paper on this research is published in Nature Scientific Reports.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com