Researchers Use Spider Silk to Create Human Skin That is Nearly Bulletproof

Posted on August 21, 2011

Bulletproof Spider Silk Human Skin

Dutch artist Jalila Essaidi and the Forensic Genomics Consortium Netherlands combined spider silk with human cells to create a stronger human skin that was nearly bulletproof. The human spider silk skin was able to stop bullets shot at a reduced speed, but failed to stop bullets fired at normal speed.

Jalila Essaidi

Essaidi says, "By implementing this bulletproof matrix of spider silk produced by transgenic goats in human skin I want to explore the social, political, ethical and cultural issues surrounding safety in a world with access to new biotechnologies. Issues which arise on the basis of ancient human desire for invulnerability. It is legend that Achilles, the central character of Homer's Iliad was invulnerable in all of his body except for his heel. Will we in the near future due to biotechnology no longer need to descend from a godly bloodline in order to have traits like invulnerability?"

Essaidi also writes here that Genghis Khan is said to have equipped his horsemen with silk vests, which were able to stop arrows. She says, "Imagine a spidersilk vest, capable of catching bullets, the modern day equivalent of Genghis Khan's arrows. Now, let's take this one step further, why bother with a vest: imagine replacing keratin, the protein responsible for the toughness of the human skin, with this spidersilk protein."

The bulletproof human skin was not successful this time around, but it is possible the human spider silk skin concept could be improved to one day create a bulletproof human skin or a superhero suit.

Discovery has an article about another interesting use of spider silk. The article says that spider silk may "hold the key to creating artificial skin for burn victims and other patients requiring skin grafts."

Photos: Jalila Essaidi

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