Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stronger Than Steel

Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope
By Bridget Heos
Photographs by Andy Comins

This new addition to the Scientists in the Field series spotlights Randy Lewis, who is at the forefront of researching golden orb weaver spiders' silk. There are many potential uses for spider silk, because it is so strong and flexible. It can be used for fishing line, or even parachute rope and bulletproof vests. The most interesting part of this research is that there are experiments happening with goats! Scientists are studying the effects of implanting the spiders' silk gene into goats, and then processing the silk proteins out of their milk. One of the labs is local, at Utah State University. There are similar studies being done with transgenic silkworms and alfalfa, so it remains to be seen who will reign supreme in mass silk production. Stronger than Steel has the potential to be used for science fair projects, as there is a lot of great information and a very cool experiment for separating the DNA from a strawberry.

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