Structure and Properties of Cocoons and Silk Fibers Produced by Attacus atlas
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Silk fibers in the three layers of Attacus atlas (A. atlas) cocoons have morphological structure and tensile properties similar to that of Bombyx mori silk. Attempts are being made to produce silk for commercial applications from cocoons of relatively unknown wild insects due to the unique properties of the fibers and as a source of income and employment. In this research, A. atlas cocoons were used to study the chemical composition, morphology, physical structure and tensile properties of the silk fibers in the cocoons and ability of the fibers to support the attachment and proliferation of mouse fibroblast cells. It was found that A. atlas cocoons consists of outer, intermediate and inner layer with average breaking tenacity of 4.1, 4.3 and 3.6 g/den, respectively similar to that of B. mori silk (4.3–5.2 g/den). The heavier cocoons, less restrictive rearing conditions and good properties of the fibers compared to B. mori silk makes A. atlas a potential alternative to common silks for commercial scale silk production. A. atlas fibers had about 80 % higher optical densities of cells and extensive growth of F-actin compared to B. mori silk fibers.
KeywordsWild silks Attacus atlas Biocompatibility Tensile properties Bombyx mori
The authors wish to thank the Agricultural Research Division at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USDA Hatch Act and Multi-state Project S1026 for their financial support to complete this research. The authors also thank Nathan Brockam with Reiman Gardens for his help in collecting the A. atlas cocoons.
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