Exploring the Surprising Uses of Silk, from Fashion to Rocket Ships
Silkworms are famous for producing silk, which is coveted for its texture and lustre. Silk was first discovered in 2640 BC by a Chinese empress when she noticed a strong but soft thread unravel from a silkworm’s cocoon after it fell in her tea while taking a stroll in her garden. From then on in, silk became a highly prized item in Ancient China that only nobility was allowed to wear. Since then, it has spread around the globe after the aptly named silk road flourished in the Middle Ages.
The first documented medical application of silk was by Claudius Galenus of Pergamon (c. 131 to c. 211 AD). Since then, silk has been the subject of research in many cultures. This article will explore some of the alleged health benefits of silk that are starting to emerge after centuries of research.
Silk cocoon-based skin care formulations are gaining popularity for their efficacy in slowing down skin ageing and promoting skin radiance. Within the micro-silk fibres, proteins called “sericin”, which help boost the moisturising properties of other ingredients aka improving "active substance stabilisation" in formulations.
When silk proteins are applied to the skin, it helps absorbs the sebum, toxins, and keratinaceous debris. At the same time, the active compounds leech out and get into the deeper layer of the skin.
Producer of Collagen
Collagen is the main structure protein of connective tissues. It can be found in the skin, bone, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. It is also used in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Silkworms produce collagen in their silk, and account for up to 10% of the cocoon’s protein weight. It’s easier to produce and extract in large quantities, making silk collagen a major industry in several countries.
A biological laboratory in Japan has also developed a technology that allows genetically engineered silkworms to produce human collagen. This solves certain problems as conventional cosmetic products use fish-derived collagen, which has higher risk of triggering an allergic reaction.
In the realm of aerospace engineering, the unexpected finds its place in the form of silk. Silk, known for its strength-to-weight ratio and thermal properties, has emerged as a surprising contender for applications within rocket ships.
Researchers have explored the possibility of using silk fibres to create lightweight yet resilient materials for components like parachute cords and insulation. This fusion of natural elegance and cutting-edge technology showcases silk's potential to contribute to the advancement of space exploration, where the delicate threads of nature intersect with the demands of the cosmos.
A Nutritious Snack
Silkworm may not be your idea of a snack, but in Thailand, China, and Korea—they are a nutritious delicacy! According to studies, silkworm pupae contains even more amino acids than soybeans.
David Taylor, a nutrition expert at Monkeyfoodz, says “Silkworms are also widely used and favoured by science because they contain unsaturated fatty acids. These unsaturated fatty acids play a crucial role in lowering the body’s lipid levels – weight gain, and even obesity.”
Silkworms are also loaded with Vitamin B1, B2, B3, Iron, Calcium, Protein, Magnesium, and Sodium.
May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists at Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have discovered that the composition of silk fibres are comparable to the amyloids or cell-damaging protein clumps that form in an Alzheimer’s-inflicted brain. They are looking further into the ability of silk proteins in halting the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain.
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