An international team of researchers have developed a new nanomaterial formed by the mite of Tetranychus lintearius.

Nanomaterial is capable of penetrating human cells without causing damage, and thus has 'promising biomedical properties.' The material is organic, stimulates cell proliferation without toxicity, and is biodegradable. These properties allow for its use in pharmacology and biomedicine. Researchers believe it may also be used for transporting medicines for carcinoma therapy and for the production of biosensors for the detection of pathogens and viruses.

Cover Photo and above Credit: Tony Wills, CC 3.0 Attribution License

Nanomaterials must be biocompatible, biodegradable, non-toxic, and non-immunogenic in the use of a specific cell compartment. Many engineered nanomaterials have been shown to have unwanted effects on living organisms. Silks are a family of protein-separated materials for various biological functions. Spider silk and silkworm silk are the most studied examples of these organic materials. They can easily be used for specific applications as protein molecules.

The mites are the second largest group of terrestrial species, the Chelicerata. It is an agricultural pest that feeds more than 1,100 plant species. Tetranychus urticae It has the highest incidence of resistance to pesticide in arthropods. Computer modeling indicates that, due to the pace of growth at high temperatures, the harmful effects of spider mites are on the a markedly upward swing in agriculture.

The mite is a large plant pest, which kills annual and perennial plants such as tomatoes, pumpkin, concombers, strawberries, maice, soy, apples and grape. It has become a notable pest in the fields of production and cultivation of greenhouses.

Spider mites are less known for their ability to spin nano-scale silk. T. lintearius is a gorse spider mite that produces abundant quantities of nano-dimension silk. The researchers first identified the biophysical features of silk fibers and produced nanoparticles and biofilms from linteris collected silk.

Using Fourier transformed infrarot spectroscopy and characterized silks nanoparticles using field emission scan electron microscopy, they first modeled the silk structure. Nanoparticles and biofilm from T. Lintearius and Silkworm silk demonstrated that spider mite silk is supportive of mammalian cell growth in vitro. These findings pave the way for the biomedical use of the notorious silk.

Fibers from T. urticae are of the thinnest natural silk fiber produced by silk spinning arthropods having diameters on their nanometer scale. This nano-silk is produced in almost twice the amount of other mites. The researchers say this silk represents a natural nanobiomaterial with useful technical and medical features with applications for pharmacology and biomedicine.