Freckles the goat is part spider. Her milk is loaded with spider silk protein. The silk from Freckles has potential uses in medicine (as a ligament replacement), is stronger than Kevlar and extremely elastic.

So why not just harvest the silk from spiders?

photo by Douglas Sprott (Flickr CC)

Spiders can’t be farmed because they are cannibalistic, while goats have been farmed for 10,000 years or so. Genetically engineered ‘spider goats’ also produce vast amounts of spider silk in their milk when compared to tiny golden orb spiders.

Freckles is the creation of Randy Lewis, a professor of genetics at Utah State University. The farm is a university outpost where they research modern farming techniques, teach animal husbandry and raise what are inevitably referred to as “spider-goats”.Randy, like many of the other scientists here in Logan, Utah, has farming in his blood. So although a creature that is part goat, part spider might seem like an idea born of science fiction, as far as Randy is concerned it’s simply advanced farming: breeding animals to produce things that we want.

–Observer

Other advances in synthetic biology include a living cell with a genetic code assembled by a computer, creating glowing bacteria by using fluorescent proteins from phosphorescent jellyfish and the production of synthetic biodiesel from brewer’s yeast.

Read more in the Observer and the Canadian Press.

Goats are not alone in producing super-strong silk. Silk worms have also been genetically crossed with spiders to produce silk that is 48% stronger than normal silk and has 61% of the strength of spider silk, which is already stronger than steel.

Read more on that story in the Christian Science Monitor.

Additional resources:

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.



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