Little Miss Mullet
Stuffing her gullet,
Cheating her diet away.
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And Miss Mullet had this to say:
Silly little pest
Oh give it a rest,
Trying to scare me this way.
Spider’s friend was a goat
Who grew his own garrote.
Her head went tumbling away.
Got silk? Specifically, you got any spider silk? Where humans are concerned, that stuff falls in the category of “want.” That’s because spider silk cures the common cold and will someday enable humans to breathe underwater and stop bullets with their skin. It’ll also make hella bitchin’ tripwires in the next world war, a benefit that cannot be overstated enough.
You can’t milk a spider, so naturally you got to get those spider genes into something you can milk. Like a goat. It’s so obvious. I totally had this same idea decades ago. But then I got diverted by chèvre and went down a slightly different – and tastier – path. A path that was much more beneficial to humanity. IMHO.
Since the silk comes from a special protein within the goat’s milk, that milk will make very effective protein shakes for vegetarians. Mmm, spider milk. It does a body good. At least until the convulsions come. Of course, drinking the goat milk kind of defeats the whole purpose of this DNA switcharoo, right? You can’t make 1,200 story buildings if you don’t make enough Spider Goat Steel (SGS).
So how do you get spider silk out of a goat? I learned the following from my child’s kindergarten homework (with a little help from Wikipedia):
One approach that does not involve farming spiders is to extract the spider silk gene and use other organisms to produce the spider silk. In 2000, Canadian biotechnology company Nexia successfully produced spider silk protein in transgenic goats that carried the gene for it; the milk produced by the goats contained significant quantities of the protein, 1–2 grams of silk proteins per liter of milk. Attempts to spin the protein into a fiber similar to natural spider silk resulted in fibers with tenacities of 2–3 grams per denier (see BioSteel). Nexia used wet spinning and squeezed the silk protein solution through small extrusion holes in order to simulate the behavior of the spinneret, but this has so far not been sufficient to replicate the properties of native spider silk.
Up next: Potatoes that literally have eyes, salmon that catches itself, and intelligent trees that serve as undercover police officers. The future looks bright.