- Hair curvature underpins structural diversity and function in mammalian coats, but what causes curl in keratin hair fibres? To obtain structural datato determine one aspect of this question, we used confocal microscopy to provide in situ measurements of the two cell types that make up the cortex of merino wool fibres, which was chosen as a well-characterised model system representative of narrow diameter hairs, such as underhairs. We measured orthocortical and paracortical cross-sectional areas, and cortical cell lengths, within individual fibre snippets of defined uniplanar curvature. This allowed a direct test of two long-standing theories of the mechanism of curvature in hairs. We found evidence contradicting the theory that curvature results from there being more cells on the side of the fibre closest to the outside, or convex edge, of curvature. In all cases, the orthocortical cells close to the outside of curvature were longer than paracortical cells close to the inside of the curvature, which supports the theory that curvature is underpinned by differences in cell type length. However,the latter theory also implies that, for all fibres, curvature should correlate with the proportions of orthocortical and paracortical cells,and we found no evidence for this. In merino wool, it appears that the absolute length of cells of each type and proportion of cells varies from fibre to fibre, and only the difference between the length of the two cell types is important. Implications for curvature in higher diameter hairs,such as guard hairs and those on the human scalp, are discussed.
- Crimp and bulk, important wool fiber properties, are thought to be related to differences in the protein composition of the orthocortex and paracortex. Fiber morphological studies have demonstrated that the paracortex has a higher proportion of matrix and cysteine than the orthocortex. While there is some evidence for the differential expression of genes between these cell types in the follicle, this has not been demonstrated satisfactorily in the mature fiber. Using proteolytic digestion of wool fibers, followed by ultrasonic disruption to obtain relatively pure fractions of both cell types, the KAP3 high sulfur protein family was found to be present in higher concentrations in the paracortex. This significant finding provides an explanation for the higher cysteine content reported in the paracortex. This represents an advance in our understanding of protein expression variation in the orthocortex and paracortex, and how this relates to key physical and mechanical properties of wool fibers.
- Alpaca fibers have some distinct properties such as softness and warmth, which have not been fully understood in combination with the fiber internal structures. In the present investigation, the internal structures of alpaca fibers have been closely examined under the scanning electron microscope (SEM), especially in the longitudinal direction. The results showed that numerous pigment granules reside loosely inside pockets in brown and dark-brown alpaca fibers. These pigment granules were mainly distributed inside the cortical cells, the medullation regions as well as underneath the cuticles. Their size in the brown alpaca fibers was smaller and more uniformly round than in the dark-brown fibers. These granules in colored alpaca fibers loosen the bundle of cortical cells, providing many crannies in the fibers which may contribute to the superior flexibility, warmth and softness of the fibers. Moreover, there are no heavy metal elements found in the granules. The mordant hydrogen peroxide bleaching employed could eliminate the pigment granules and create many nano-volumes for further dyeing of fibers into more attractive colors.
- Luxury fibers have great importance in the field of high added value fabric production, but the studies related to these fibers are very limited. One of these luxury proteinous fibers is alpaca wool. In this study, dyeing characteristics (dye-uptake speed, color efficiency and nuance of color, fastness properties, etc.) of alpaca fibers (Huacaya and Suri) were investigated by taking sheep wool as a reference. Furthermore, analysis such as scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy was also carried out. According to the experimental results it was found that both dye-uptake speed and amount was in the range of sheep > Suri alpaca > Huacaya alpaca for milling acid dye. Furthermore, when their fastness properties were compared with sheep wool, it could be said that there was no difference for washing and perspiration fastness, while rubbing and light fastness of alpaca fibers were lower than sheep wool.
- Softness of apparel textiles is a major attribute sought by consumers. There is surprisingly little objective information on the softness properties of rare animal fibres, particularly cashmere, alpaca and mohair. Samples of these and other rare animal fibres from different origins of production and processors were objectively measured for fibre diameter, fibre curvature (FC, crimp) and resistance to compression (softness). While there were curvilinear responses of resistance to compression to FC and to mean fibre diameter, FC accounted for much more of the variance in resistance to compression. Fibre type was an important determinant of resistance to compression. The softest fibres were alpaca, mohair and cashgora and all of the fibres measured were softer than most Merino wool. Quivet, llama, camel, guanaco, vicuña, yak wool, bison wool, dehaired cow down and Angora rabbit were also differentiated from alpaca, mohair and cashmere. There were important differences in the softness and FC of cashmere from different origins with cashmere from newer origins of production (Australia, New Zealand and USA) having lower resistance to compression than cashmere from traditional sources of China and Iran. Cashmere from different origins was differentiated on the basis of resistance to compression, FC and fibre diameter. Cashgora was differentiated from cashmere by having a lower FC and lower resistance to compression. There were minority effects of colour and fibre diameter variation on resistance to compression of cashmere. The implications of these findings for the identification and use of softer raw materials are discussed.