Page last updated at 04:58 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 05:58 UK

A look around the tarantula lab

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Some of the world's largest and hairiest spiders are helping scientists to unlock the secrets of spider silk.

Because spider silk is so strong - stronger even than steel, lightweight and very, very stretchy - scientists have been attempting to create artificial silk that could be used for a huge host of commercial applications, from medical sutures to clothing.

But so far, this research, carried out mainly on smaller orb-weaver spiders, has run into difficulties. So scientists at Nottingham University are trying a new tactic - tarantulas.

Dr Sara Goodacre shows BBC science reporter Rebecca Morelle some of the eight-legged residents of the Spiderlab.

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