University of Wyoming researchers have long been at the forefront in documenting the special properties of spider silk, and in searching for ways to produce the strong substance for beneficial human uses from medical sutures to body armor.

Now, UW researchers have played a major role in advancing spider silk research to an even higher level.

Working with colleagues at the University of Notre Dame and Zhejiang University in China, UW researchers have genetically engineered silkworms to spin silk containing spider silk proteins. Those fibers are stronger than fibers normally spun by silkworms and almost as tough as spider silk.

The team's research was publicized in the Jan. 3 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world's top scientific journals.