Last month, we wrote about Tomioka silk mills, which is now a historical legacy from the past.
Prosperous age of Japanese silk industry is now gone.
Recently, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Ibaraki prefecture suceeded joint develepment with Industrial Cooperative of Chirimen Silk from Shiga prefecture(Nagahama, which is famous for Hama-chirimen production) in making fluorescent silks.
There used to be more than 2.2 million silk-raising farmers in Japan but now situation is helpless. Shozo Sakai, 81 years old, who has been a silk farmer more than 60 years said, `This is the way we can survivie'. The glowing silks are made by gene recombination.
You can see colorful cocoons with glow in the photo of the above article. The green color is from jelly fish, and pink color is originally from coral. The institute has made eleven different colors by the method of gene recombination. They are trying to establish the method for silk farmers to grow the genetically modified cocoons. They are trying to make sure they will not affect ecosystem.
Thirty thousands silkworms can have approx 50 kilogram cocoons. From them, approx 8 kilogram silk can be made. To make one dress with fluorescent silk, ten to thirty thousands of silkworms will be needed. They have already tried to make wedding dresses and other products. The fluorescent silk can be a sensational material in fashion field.
However, it is not only for fashion. The genetically modified silkwarm can produce `antimicrobial' silk or useful protein which work as antibody.
Silkworms have silkthread gland which keep protein, so it is possible to make them produce `useful protein' there!
Immune creature research institute has succeeded to invent genetically modified silkwarms which can produce the protein used as a material of flu vaccine. As a material for medicine, silkwarms are getting more and more aattention. The silk with such high-performance can have such a wide usage, such as artificial blood vessel, or sponge for regenarative medicien!
Silkworms were raised even from B.C. Now they can become high-tech factory. Silk kept fascinating people and now they are devoting themselves even more for humanbeings. They are helping silkworm farmers again and working for our future also. We owe so much to them!