Nexia's Spider Silk Goats: A Genetic Marvel
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Nexia's Spider Silk Goats: A Genetic Marvel

Nexia is a biotechnology company which seeks to discover new applications for bulk amounts of spider thread including lightweight body armor.
Spider silk has long been known to have an extremely high tensile strength for its weight and other chemical properties that make it extremely strong and valuable in such applications as body armor. Interestingly, spiders have proved difficult to farm, because they seem to prefer eating each other over cooexisting and producing silk, unlike their spinning cousins the silkworms. But, a Canadian company called Nexia made headlines back in 2000 when they announced that they had introduced the gene coding of spider silk spinning into a goat. Essentially, they had developed a genetically modified goat which could produce many times the amount of silk fibers that a spider could, thus introducing the kind of scale breakthrough needed for spider silk production. A video explanation of the remarkable feat is available below.

Reactions varied to the scientific breakthrough, and not everyone took kindly to the news that Nexia possessed "spider goats". Many did consider the news a notable scientific advance, while there were occasional extreme reactions such as one website, www.jesus-is-savior.com, which claims that such genetic modification is definitively Satanic by nature and is indicative that the end of the world is coming soon. The site fails to provide any academic research, reasoning, or even structured argument which could indicate evidence of evil; it instead shifts its focus to other apparently more pressing topics with the following grammatically questionable quote: "AIDS is the creation of the U.S. military. A weapon designed to curb the earth's population."

It's now 2010, so it will apparently take more than goats capable of producing spider silk to usher in Armageddon. Nexia, however, continued to progress in its experiments. In 2002, it worked with the U.S. Army Soldier Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM) to develop BioSteel, which was an early mass-production effort to gain the types of silk standardization necessary for future production.

The goat spider-silk effort began with two goats, Webster and Pete, who have since been at work producing more goats with the embedded spider genes. The process works because milk and silk protein production works in similar ways. Indeed, this is apparent because the goats do not produce pure silk, but a silk suspended in milk proteins which must be processed out. Finished products from BioSteel technology have not been sold yet, but it remains to be seen what sorts of interesting technology can be derived from Nexia's transgenic goat products. Nexia holds world records for the first transgenic goats capable of spider silk production.

SOURCES

http://science.discovery.com/videos/kapow-superhero-science-spider-silk-gene-goats.html

http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/End%20of%20the%20World/Genetics%20Nightmare/spider_goats.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/889951.stm

"Spider Silk Fibers Spun from Soluble Recombinant Silk Produced in Mammalian Cells" (Lazaris et al., 2002-01-18. Science. Vol. 295:472-476)

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DNA_orbit_animated.gif

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