An Amazing Fact: One of the most amazing materials in nature is the light, flexible, yet incredibly strong compound spiders use to catch unsuspecting insects. It’s spider silk. Pound for pound, the threads produced by these little arachnids can hold more weight than the most sophisticated manufactured materials. The silk in a spider web is an extremely strong substance that has a tensile strength of 300,000 pounds per square inch and is both stronger and lighter than compounds based on steel.
For a long time people have known about the impressive properties of spider silk, and some have dreamed of being able to create it, perhaps the way that the ancient Chinese learned to produce silk from silkworms. But unlike the gentle silkworm, spiders are aggressive, territorial, and not easily domesticated. Up until now all attempts to synthesize spider silk have failed, but a new venture involving gene-splicing is showing considerable promise.
A Canadian company, Nexia Biotechnologies, appears on the verge of manufacturing a substance similar to spider silk through a surprising method, using the milk of goats. Researchers put the spider silk gene into milk animals, since there are close anatomical similarities between the silk-producing glands of spiders and the milk-producing glands of these mammals. The scientists spliced the spider silk gene into cells taken from the mammary glands of goats. The silk genes worked with amazing efficiency in the mammary cells, and Nexia scientists were soon
producing high-quality spider silk.
Now the challenge will be to mass breed these transgenic goats and extract the pure silk protein from the milk and spin it into fabric. If the new stock of genetically altered goats produce as expected, Nexia will have the beginnings of a spider-silk dairy. The product, called “BioSteel,” may soon be used for a variety of applications, from medical sutures to artificial tendons or ligaments. It could be used to create lighter and stronger bulletproof vests, and even for the coatings of space stations to protect them from micro-meteorites.
It’s interesting to consider how many of man’s inventions have been plagiarized from the amazing creatures God has designed. The most amazing fact is that many people think all these wonders of nature have evolved by chance!
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. Psalms 104:24