Spiders weave intricate patterns of great amazement and beauty. When hit by the sparkling rays of the sun, their complex and yet simple structure shimmers and delights any on-looker. Though we love to see spider webs, we rarely like to run into them, as they are sticky and difficult to untangle from their clinging nature. As it turns out, that sticky nature possessed by the webs of the eight-legged weaver could have medicinal properties attached to it. Science and medicine are discovering how spider webs can heal wounds, act as suturing material and even help regenerate ligaments.
Who would have guessed that one of the mysterious mediums of nature’s art could be used for healing? Spider webs have always just been for looking at or avoiding, yes? Well, not anymore. According to doctors and lay people alike, balling up a spider web and covering a bleeding wound with it will not only slow the blood flow and help clot it, but provide the materials needed for a quick recovery. After placing the web over a wound, the spider web tends to harden like a natural scab which will later easily wash off leaving – miraculously – no scarring.
Spider webs are one of the strongest materials in nature, and apparently, in relation to their diameter, are ‘five times stronger than steel.’ Biochemist Artem Davidenko from the DWI at RWTH says that a web measuring 2 centimeters thick would be able to pull an entire airplane – that is how strong it is.
Knee injuries are very common these days, especially among athletes. Science is looking at how spider webs can help regenerate ligaments in the knees and even help with the making of artificial tendons. In a recent issue of Chemical Review, the work to regrow spider webs on a mass scale using alternative mediums such as goat milk proteins and alfalfa is outlined. “Scientists generate these proteins outside spiders by inserting the genes for them into target cells.”
Bandages are now being created using spider web material woven into the pad so as to speed healing and prevent scarring. The beads found on spider webs contribute to knowledge for a suturing material that could be created with medication built right into the structure. Here is a short video on how this work came about:
Apparently, there is natural antibiotic properties to spider webs which make them ‘a natural’ at wound healing and cell regeneration. Who would have thought that nature’s artists were ‘drawing’ with such a useful and healing material? The web of the golden-silk orb-weaver, a specific kind of spider, is being researched for its ability to help mammalian neuronal regeneration – or regeneration of the neurons of the retina. This has already shown effective and is being pursued as a procedure that leaves the patient scar-free, very important in a delicate area such as the eye.
Bundles of spider silk has also been used to graft severed nerves when nothing else has shown so effective. There is still as yet, research to be done with the illusive, yet ever-greater mystery-revealing spider web for healing wounds- though findings thus far are promising. The next time you cut yourself with the kitchen knife, or even let the paper fall too deeply- leaving a split in the skin – reach for a spider web, you may be amazed at how these sticky Halloween friendly spider’s nets can help.
Written by: Stasia Bliss