Since the time of the ancient Greeks, humans have been using spider silk to dress wounds. Scientists now know spider webs not only have healing qualities, they can be stronger than steel! University of Wyoming Molecular Biologist Randy Lewis adds an almost science fiction aspect to the study of spider silk: making large quantities of it by “growing it” in goat’s milk. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Lewis has cloned and sequenced genes for the proteins that make up five different spider silks, some stronger than Kevlar, others more elastic than nylon. Spider silk is also antimicrobial, hypoallergenic and completely biodegradable. The gene for “spider dragline silk” has been introduced into the cells of goats by non-viral methods. The goats excrete the spider silk protein in their milk. Several goats with this gene were born in Lewis’s lab in late January 2010.
Provided by the National Science Foundation
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