Two male dwarf Nigerian goats that have had spiders' genes transplanted into them have been bred with a herd of females. The female offspring of the herd is set to 'make scientific history' because they should produce milk that contains a super-rich 'spider fibre'. It is thought that this fibre will revolutionise the construction of aircraft and spaceships.
The breakthrough is the result of work by a team of Canadian researchers led by Dr Jeffrey Turner, head of Nexia Biotechnologies of Quebec. As a result of the gene transplant, the goats produce molecules of spider web-silk, one of the strongest and lightest materials known, and which cannot be made artificially because of the complexity of its molecular make-up. It can also not be farmed from the spiders as they are cannibalistic.
The process of extracting spider silk proteins from goat's milk is possible because the way spiders make silk and goats make milk are relatively similar processes. Nexia scientists are preparing to milk the spider protein-producing goats just as they begin to lactate, but it is not yet clear whether the goats will be able to produce quantities of the web protein to satisfy commercial needs. Nexia estimates that two goats would be able to produce enough fibre for sutures, but ten thousand goats to produce enough material to make a plane wing.
Sources and References
The GM goats that spin silk like steel
GM goats will yield super 'spider-fibre'