Spiral Notebook
The Amazing Spider . . . Goats?
by Bridget Heos
July 7, 2012
The Amazing Spider . . . Goats?

Have you seen the movie The Amazing Spider-man?  There is a lot of science in the movie, but how much is sci-fi and how much is sci-fact? Of course, Spider-man is a fictional character. Being bitten by a spider wouldn’t give a person the ability to spin silk. But it is possible for non-spiders to produce spider silk. For instance, did you know there really are spider goats?

Spider Goats

These adorable kids, being raised by Dr. Randy Lewis and his team at Utah State, have one spider gene. It has been passed down from their parents. The original spider goat was injected with a spider gene when he was an early embryo. This spider gene causes female goats to produce spider silk proteins in their milk. The proteins are then spun into spider silk by a machine.

As for the strength of spider silk, that wasn’t exaggerated in the movie. Just an inch diameter rope of spider silk could stop a 747 airplane. Read all about this and more in Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope.

By the way, the lizard obsession of the villainous Dr. Curt Connors (AKA Lizard) can be linked to real research. Scientists are studying salamanders (actually amphibians,) which are able to regenerate new limbs. They want to apply their genetic findings to helping humans heal.  You can read about that here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070330111307.htm

Real science provides inspiration to science fiction writers. It’s fun to read and watch science fiction. (I’m a big fan of Superhero movies in particular.) In Stronger Than Steel, you’ll learn how, in reality, scientists use genetic engineering to prevent and treat devastating diseases and injuries.

Perhaps Stronger Than Steel will inspire you to pursue a career in genetic engineering…or to create the next great superhero. Either way, I hope you enjoy learning about this exciting area of research.

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