When most people are asked to think about bullet-proof fabrics they are likely to envision a large vest made with the help of Kevlar fibers. Those are used often in the industry, but many researchers are working hard on the development of new materials that could sustain a higher amount of damage while also being light-weight enough to be used for several applications. But what if spider silk would also be an excellent material for bullet-proof products?
A team of researchers has managed to harness the power of genetically-edited bacteria to create an improved variation of spider silk. It is well-known that spider silk is much stronger in comparison to steel, but it is difficult to collect. Using spider farms would be inefficient and costly in the long run.
Even if you manage to obtain the required number of spiders they are likely to attack and kill each other within minutes. That is where genetic tools come into play.
Scientists created new bullet-proof fabrics using genetically-edited bacteria that produce spider silk
The team of researchers conducted a few preliminary tests which showed that they could edit bacteria and add the spider silk production gene to their genetic structure. At first, the scientist tried to insert the gene as it is, a task which couldn’t be completed since the bacteria would reject it.
In order to facilitate the process, the spider silk genes were divided into smaller pieces which could be re-assembled after they managed to become a part of the bacterial genome. By using two liters of genetically-enhanced bacteria, the researchers were able to make two grams of spider silk. That may not seem to be too much when you compare the quantity, but it is a significant improvement in comparison to previous experiments which tried to produce spider silk.
The results of the study show that the potential to produce spider silk is there, but the process needs to be perfect before we can produce large quantities. It is likely that spider silk will be an excellent material for the production of bullet-proof fabrics that will be able to withstand large amounts of damage.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere