- Human skin reinforced with spider silk – four times stronger than Kevlar
- Substance can stop a bullet
- Silk produced by goats, genetically altered to produce ‘milk’ made of webs
By Rob Waugh
Last updated at 2:57 PM on 31st January 2012
Human skin can stop a bullet – with a little help from genetically modified goats.
The skin is mixed with goat ‘milk’ from goats ‘tweaked’ to produce the same protein found in spider silk. Woven spider silk is four times stronger than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.
The ‘silk’ is layered with bio-engineered human skin grown in laboratory, and can withstand a direct impact from a bullet – although not one fired at full speed, yet.
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‘In the first clip, the bio-engineered skin cushions a bullet fired at half speed. But its resistance has its limits: when shot at a full speed of 329 m/s, the bullet pierces the material and travels through it,’ says New Scientist.
Dutch researcher Jalila Essaidi said the ‘spidersilk’ project was called ’2.6g 329m/s’ after the weight and the velocity of a .22 calibre long rifle bullet. Working with the Forensic Genomics Consortium in the Netherlands, she said the goal was to replace the keratin in our skin with the spider’s silk.
The silk is produced in Utah, then spun into thread in Korea, then woven into layers of fabric in Germany.
The last stage involves growing a layer of real skin around a sample of the bulletproof skin, which takes about five weeks.
Essaidi said that the project was about making science fiction a reality.
She said that silk has a long history of being used in combat – Genghis Khan once issued all his horsemen with silk vests as an arrow hitting silk does not break, meaning you can tease out arrowheads.
‘Imagine a spidersilk vest, capable of catching bullets, the modern day equivalent of Genghis Khan’s arrows,’ she said.
‘Now, let’s take this one step further, why bother with a vest: imagine replacing keratin, the protein responsible for the toughness of the human skin, with this spidersilk protein.
‘This is possible by adding the silk producing genes of a spider to the gnome of a human: creating a bulletproof human.
‘Science-fiction? Maybe, but we can get a feeling of what this transhumanistic idea would be like by letting a bulletproof matrix of spidersilk merge with an in vitro human skin.’
Bullet proof vests have been around for decades but skin that can stop them has only been the preserve of science fiction.
The most famous example is Superman, or the Man of Steel – bullets simply ricochet off of him.