If the poor reputation of genetic engineering is leaving you depressed, you have to read this: Notre Dame professor Malcolm Fraser’s team of researchers is using their transgenically-engineered silkworms to produce silk that is strong enough for “sutures, artificial limbs and parachutes.” That’s the power of genetic engineering in the right hands!
Although silkworms lend themselves to farming, we have long known that spiders have the strongest silk — with tensile strength comparable to steel! But spiders’ sprawling webs are unwieldy when compared with silkworm’s dense cocoons, and spiders tend to be cannibalistic and territorial, making farming difficult. Try as they might, no one had found a commercially-viable way to harvest spider silk.
So Fraser’s team engineered silkworms with both silkworm and spider proteins to produce the best of both worlds. If the transgenic silkworms’ silk is used to create parachutes, this story of genetic engineering could prove — literally — uplifting.
Watch the video here.