By Carmen Rivera
Scientists hope to soon be able to spin spider silk without the aid of spiders, achieving this task would not only be an amazing technological breakthrough in the field of genetic manipulation, but also in the development of new and exciting fibers. Randy Lewis, a professor of molecular biology in the University of Wyoming, who’s been experimenting with the genetic manipulation of the spider’s silk producing protein. The development of the spider’s silk fiber would be an amazing advancement in the fiber sciences field by being an organic material that is not only elastic, but also quite possibly the strongest man-made fiber. But where do goats come into the mix? Well, spiders being the territorial and aggressive creatures they are make it impossible to farm, unlike goats that are accustomed to such. Because of that Prof. Lewis started working on implanting the spider’s silk producing gene into the goat’s genetic structure. The results were unbelievable, it worked! Goats could now produce the same protein that allowed their milk to be spun from liquid to solid. Such amazing results caught the Army’s attention. They now plan to use the goat’s milk fibers in their bulletproof vests, which are now 100% effective. After the development of the “Biosteel”, or what the spider silk is now referred to as, scientist researched into even further possibilities like bulletproof skin. Scientists took the genetically modified silk and cultured it with human skin cells that, after about five weeks, created a tough, flexible, living material that is calculated to make a slow bullet ricochet from skin. Scientists hope to further refine the discovery into cells that can actually stop any type of bullet as consistently as bulletproof vest. And so the spider gave the goat genetic properties that made silk as strong as iron that then made skin as strong as Superman’s. Science will never cease to amaze us.
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“Military Breakthrough: ‘Bulletproof’ Skin Made from Spider Silk.” The Week – Science+Tech. The Week, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. <http://theweek.com/article/index/218433/military-breakthrough-bulletproof-skin-made-from-spider-silk>.