Recent work of artist Jalila Essaïdi exemplifies of how science and art can meet and create meaningful inventions for society. Jalila Essaïdi used the spider silk produced by Randy Lewis’ goats to develop a partially bulletproof supernatural human skin.
The goal of the project is to “Improve the sense of security”. The project raises questions as: How far do we want to go, as individuals and society in general, to feel secure? With this project Jalila Essaïdi is one of the three winners of the Designer and Artists 4 Genomics (DA4G) Award 2010, an initiative by the Centre for Society and Genomics and Waag Society’s Wetlab to stimulate young artists and designers to work with living organisms, living tissues and biotechnology (bio-arts). The money attached to this award gave Jalila Essaïdi the opportunity to make prototypes of the skin and test these at a firing range. The Bulletproof Skin and the other winning projects are exhibited until January 8th 2012 in the museum of the Dutch centre of biodiversity Naturalis.
The human/spidersilk skin was developed in cooperation with the academic medical centre in Leiden (LUMC). The regular production process of the lab-grown skin was a little changed to be able to grow a skin with spidersilk. During a regular production process of lab-grown skin, a raster is made out of bio degradable material. Next, this raster is seeded with human skin cells. For the human/spidersilk skin, the material used for the raster was replaced by spidersilk produced by Lewis’ goats. In theory, the human/spidersilk skin can be transplanted to a human body.
2.6g 329 m/s is the name of the project and refers to the standard maximum weight and speed of a bullet that a bulletproof vest class I should be able to resist. To test the strength of the “bulletproof skin”, it was attached to a block of gelatin which was in structure similar to the human muscles. First, a gunshot was fired with a lower speed and with the use of the half amount of powder. The skin survived this gunshot and the bullet was stuck in the epidermis of the skin. Secondly, the 2.6g 329 m/s bullet was fired, which unfortunately went through the skin and the gelatin block. This prototype of the human/spidersilk skin does not stop a 2.6g 329 m/s yet, but it might will when the skin is thicker or the density of the raster structure is higher.