June 21, 2013 1:30 pm
Bridesmaids often complain about the unsightly beige, tangerine or chartreuse dress they have to purchase for their friend’s big event, and will no doubt wear only once. Now, a Japanese designer has managed to add an additional layer of oddity to wedding and bridesmaid dresses: glowing materials made from silk produced by genetically engineered silkworms. Wired reports:
These silkworms, unlike others that have been fed rainbow-colored dyes, don’t need any dietary interventions to spin in color: They’ve been genetically engineered to produce fluorescent skeins in shades of red, orange, and green.
This isn’t the first time silkworms have been genetically engineered, Wired points out. Some silkworms’ had their genomes tweaked in order to produce spider silk or human collagen proteins.
In this case, the researchers looked to animals that naturally produce fluorescent molecules, including corals and jellyfish. Depending upon what colored glow they wanted their silkworms to produce, Wired explains, they took the corresponding animal’s DNA sequence that produced those glowing colors and inserted it into the silkworm genome.
The resulting silks glow under fluorescent light, and are only ever-so-slightly weaker than silks that are normally used for fabrics, scientists reported June 12 in Advanced Functional Materials. Already, the glowing silks have been incorporated into everyday garments such as suits and ties, and Japanese wedding dress designer Yumi Katsura has designed and made gowns that glow in the dark.
The team says they see potential for the glowing silk to be used for some medical technologies, though the rad fabric is likely to prove be a hit at quirky weddings well before.
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