Scientists have changed the genetic structure in some silkworms to make them produce stronger, more elastic silk. How did they do this? The scientists replaced some of the genetic code in the silkworms with genetic code from spiders! They would like to produce silk fibers using good traits from both spiders and silkworms.
“Spider silk is stronger than steel and more elastic than silkworm silk. Imitating the way spiders make silk has not been successful because the fibers harden before they can be spun into thread.”1 Unfortunately, spiders like to eat each other and are territorial. However, silkworms produce silk fibers that are easier to use, and silkworms are easier to raise than spiders. By genetically modifying the silkworms, scientists hope to more easily produce stronger silk fibers. Even with the modified genetic code, the silkworms are producing silk that is only two to four percent spider silk.2 This new silk is much stronger than the normal silk produced by silkworms.
You may be wondering what scientists hope to do with the stronger silk fibers. They hope to make technological advances in producing items such as “artificial limbs, tendons, parachutes, and landing lines on aircraft carriers.”2 It is amazing that we can learn so much from the biological design God has created in both spiders and silkworms!
To learn more about God’s design in nature, please see:
1 Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, News to Note, January 21, 2012, Answers in Genesis, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/01/21/news-to-note-01212012.
2 Rachel Kaufman, “Hybrid Silkworms Spin Spider Silk—A First,” January 3, 2012, National Geographic News, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/01/120103-spiders-silkworms-silk-glowing-science-health.