Spidergoats & Superskin
While some of us might have heard of the humorous but fictional ‘spider pig,’ spidergoats are the real deal. Although you might expect to see them lounging in giant webs or dangling from the ceiling, spidergoats actually look and behave like normal, everyday goats.
Randy Lewis, professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming, has geneticly modified goats so they produce the same protein in their milk that spiders use to spin their webs. As you might have guessed, milking spiders is a difficult job. Milking goats, on the other hand, has been done for centuries. Not only are goats easy to handle, they don’t tend to eat each other like spiders do. They also produce much more of the spider silk-protein than a single or even a hundred spiders can.
The silk spiders produce is a very thin yet strong material. The tensile strength of a silk strand varies from species to species. Some spiders, like Darwin’s Bark Spider, produced silk that is up to 10 times stronger than kevlar.
Bio-artist Jalila Essaïdi uses the spider silk produced by Randy Lewis’ goats to create superhuman skin that is partially bulletproof. “The work did stop some partially slowed bullets but not the one at full speed. But even with the skin pierced by the bullet the experiment is still a success. It leads to the conversation about how which form of safety would benefit society.”