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University of Wyoming Molecular Biologists Breed Spider Silk-Producing Goats

Dave Dempsey



A group of molecular biologists from the University of Wyoming have successfully modified the genetic makeup of a new breed of goats that contain golden orb spider genes, allowing them to produce milk laden with spider silk proteins.

Spider silk is considered to have tensile strength five times greater than steel and three times stronger than the widely-used bulletproof material Kevlar – a para-aramid fibrous material made from combined para-phenylenediamine and terephthaloyl chloride used in fabricating clothing and safety equipment.

Due to the silk protein’s inherent strength, various industries are interested in using them for medical purposes such as artificial eye sutures, tendons, ligaments, and coat implants. The protein’s antimicrobial capabilities also allows its for wound patch production. Safety equipment used in the military, sports, and automotive industries can benefit from this by incorporating them on protective gears, helmets, body and vehicle armors, cables, bulletproof vests, tires, and car airbags.

Large-scale production of spider silk has always been crucial. It takes a million spiders, 70 skilled workers and four steady years of silk collection in order to produce an 11x4-sized textile made from the protein. Canadian-based Nexia Biotechnologies had researched about spider goats in 2002, dubbing the extracted spider silk protein as BioSteel. In 2009, the company failed to utilize the mass production of spider goats after it went bankrupt.

Dr. Randy Lewis, a molecular biology professor at the University of Wyoming, continued Nexia’s work with the spider goats along with other researchers. Lewis now has 30 spider goats at a farm at Utah State University. For every seven goat kids that his spider goats produce, only three would possess the silk protein gene. After the maturation of the transgenic goats, their milk will be harvested and pasteurized to extract larger quantities of spider silk proteins.

Many other commercial firms are working on the commercial viability of their own spider silk versions, such as the German firm, AMSilk, which sells shampoo and cosmetics specially formulated with spider silk proteins.

Animal researches and discoveries such as this successful experiment on new goat breed capable of producing spider silk require only top quality animal laboratory instruments to provide accurate and reproducible results. Discovery Scientific Solutions offers an extensive line of premium quality laboratory equipment and accessories that meet the key requirements of animal vivarium and veterinary research facilities.

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