Project Inspiration and Description
How to wear? And why?
For centuries clothing design has been a hot topic people focused on. Artists, materialists, and designers have been trying to seek for the best mode of cloth that can give customers a different wearing experience. There is always a question in our mind that what type of dressing code can match 21st-century aesthetic value and how can synthetic biology get involved in it? This year Met Gala’s fashion show: Notes on Camp has inspired our team that can we synthesize some “extreme” material that can develop into a totally new, functional and surprising version of cloth.
To create such version of cloth, a design in 2017’s fashion show in Modern Art Museum, New York first drew our attention, a dress weave 100% of bio-synthetic spider silk protein fiber was exhibited. By reading the description page we start to get the idea that spider silk is way more promising than the silkworm silk that we can access because of its high level of toughness, extensibility, and strength. Spider silk protein’s strength can overmatch steel wire to the same size. By reaching out to Bolt Thread company which produce the dress in the exhibition and by communicating with Professor Anna Rising1, who dedicate in spider silk protein production, we finally settle down our project on producing spider silk protein. Later on, our team realized that producing ideal material by itself is not enough for designing our best version of cloth, we also want our design to be environmental-friendly. After reading 2013 Berkeley’s2 so as 2018 Aalto-Helsinki’s3 wiki we noticed that dyeing clothing material using chemical pigment has already resulted in severe pollution that threatened water and soil quality. So adding on to our base material of spider silk protein fiber, we want to apply bio-synthesize natural pigments such as indigo blue and deoxyviolacein red. With all the material that we can create, we finalize our project in designing a Spiderman battle suit that is weaved by red and blue spider silk fiber!
Our Version: SPIDERMAN
SPIDroin EngineeRing with chroMoprotein And Natural dye
Through our project, we aim to weave a Spiderman battle suit by synthesizing spider silk protein in E-coli BL21(DE3) and spin it into a fiber by mimicking the natural way that spider utilize to form fibers from liquid protein4. Our team leader James reached out to his grandfather who devoted in silk fabrics industry for over 60 years. He lead us to visit some local textile factories where we learned how silkworm fiber has been processed and weave into fabrics. We then ask ourselves that will silkworm silk and spider silk hold similar property regarding the process of spinning and fabricating? We asked the CTO of Bolt Thread company, David, for help, and the answer made the whole team excited that silkworm silk and spider silk can be processed in the same way. Being inspired by David, our team designed a simple version of a spinning machine that we applied wet-spinning techniques to produce spider silk fiber.
After the spinning of spider silk fiber, we want to dye our spider silk fiber in to red and blue by using bio-synthesize natural pigment. Another team leader, Cindy, get inspired for this part of the project by one day receiving a special request from her friend whose family has been hand-making indigo dye for a Native American tribe. Cindy heard a few complaints from her friend that indigo plants are only available for one and a half seasons, and her family will be truly happy if indigo blue can be available for a longer time throughout the year. Our team thought that bio-synthesizing natural pigment can be sustainable and we design our metabolic pathway for indigo blue by employing a biochemical protecting group for sustainable production5. We face some difficulties in deciding a suitable red dye, we chose deoxyviolacein as the pigment that we synthesized. Because we are unsure about the dyeing property of deoxyviolacein, we also acquire prodigiosin and cochineal red as our substitution plan. To yield high crude production of indigo and deoxyviolacein, our team found that one precursor –tryptophan, plays an important role in both indigo and deoxyviolacein’s metabolic pathway. High yield of tryptophan can result in high yield of the final product6.
- Andersson, Marlene, et al. “Biomimetic Spinning of Artificial Spider Silk from a Chimeric Minispidroin.” Nature Chemical Biology, vol. 13, no. 3, 2017, pp. 262–264., doi:10.1038/nchembio.2269
- Askarieh, G., et al. “Self-Assembly of Spider Silk Proteins Is Controlled by a PH-Sensitive Relay.” 2010, doi:10.2210/pdb3lr6/pdb
- Hsu, Tammy M, et al. “Employing a Biochemical Protecting Group for a Sustainable Indigo Dyeing Strategy.” Nature Chemical Biology, vol. 14, no. 3, 2018, pp. 256–261., doi:10.1038/nchembio.2552
- Andre L.Rodrigues , et al. “System engineering of Escherichia coli for production of the antitumor drugs violacein and deoxyviolacein” Metabolic engineering 20, 29-41,2013