Part 1: Web Of Lies

Fact: Goats spin spider’s webs. 

OK, slight embellishment. Science can make goats that produce spider silk in their milk.

Obviously having a few goats minding their own business is better than having millions of spiders in a farm all viciously tearing each other’s heads off – which is exactly what happened during the initial efforts to mass-produce spider silk, since apparently spiders are highly territorial and don’t play well with others. But how to go about it?

Using a process known as genetic modification, or splicing, DNA from spiders can be artificially added to the DNA of goats – in particular. scientists have transferred the genes required to spin silk into our unsuspecting furry friends to allow mass-production of an incredibly powerful material. The elegant part is that the gene is inserted in such a way that it is only activated during milk production – so the silk is only made in milk, not in any other part of the goat where it might cause disease.

Those who despise all things spiders might wonder why you’d bother making massive quantities of cobwebs? Turns out spider silk is actually a ‘supermaterial’ – use it to make ‘BioSteel’, kevlar vests and artificial ligaments… in fact, I think it deserves its own post.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license

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