July 6, 2011
Utah researcher uses goats to make one of the strongest known substances
(Geoffrey Fattah, Deseret News) — Utah State University professor Randy Lewis’s goats look and behave like most other goats: They nibble on alfalfa and, if you’re not careful, they might nibble on your clothes. But these goats could hold the key to revolutionizing everything from tendon replacements and stronger parachutes to safer airbags.
How can these goats achieve such amazing things? Lets just say, they have a little bit in common with comic book legend Peter Parker.
Lewis’s goats are transgenic, meaning they have two key genes that allow a spider to weave their silk inserted into their genetic code. The result is goats that produce milk that contain spider silk proteins.
Nicknamed “spider man” by his fellow USU scientists, Lewis’ first-of-its-kind research has gained him international attention. His work has been featured in top science journals as well as National Geographic and Time magazines. He was also featured on PBS’s NOVA and the Discovery Channel. He has been featured on European television and more recently in Canada.
Lewis recently brought his research from the University of Wyoming after USU lured him with better facilities and funding. The university was able to recruit Lewis through the USTAR program: the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative. USTAR is a long-term, state-funded program that invests in science research with innovation and commercial potential.
Researchers and biochemical companies have long thought spider silk to be an ideal material for countless applications. It’s stronger than steel and as stretchy as nylon. But milking and caring for them is much easier than working with spiders.
“They’re territorial and cannibalistic,” Lewis said. “Scientists have known since the late 1800s that farming spiders isn’t possible — spiders tend to eat other spiders.”
To read the rest of this article in the Deseret News, click here.Posted by: psilberman