Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Goat

Or the real life goats with amazing spider-powers.

Scientists genetically engineered goats which produce spidersilk proteins in their milk by adding spider DNA to their genetic makeup.

Let me reiterate that: Scientists made goats that produce spidersilk IN REAL LIFE.

Producing milk with extra proteins admittedly isn't much of a superpower, but it is a genetically engineered goat that can do something regular goats can't. It's also a case of giving spider traits/abilities to a non-spider creature, which under the Spider-Man paradigm is superhuman (well, supercaprids).  Also, given the caveat that this is real life where things have to behave in scientifically valid ways and I think this is considerably awesome.

It’s also a hypothetical proof of concept for making humans that can produce spidersilk. (although they would have to be lactating females…)1

How did they create these sins against nature? The first thing they did was to create a synthetic chunk of DNA with a spidersilk gene (specifically for a dragsilk protein, which is the strongest kind) under the control of a mammary tissue2 specific promoter (a genetic on/off switch that controls how much a gene is turned into a protein). My money is that the promoter they used is one of the casein ones (proteins in milk, that are only made in mammary tissues). They then took the synthetic DNA and injected it into a bunch of goat embryos, some of which added the DNA to their genome.3 They put the embryos into mummy goats an got goat babies with amazing spidersilk milk powers. SCIENCE!!!

Of course Nexia, the Montreal based biotech company (which may or may not be a front for Department H) that made these goats apparently couldn't spin the spidersilk well enough to use it for industrial/medical applications and subsequently went bankrupt. Apparently they sold the last spidersilk goats, Sugar and Spice, to the Canadian Agriculture Museum. So you can go see the amazing Spider-Goats in person!

Also, apparently a researcher in Utah has made his own spidersilk producing Spider-Goats too... So the dream lives on? I hope so.

1: It would also be SOOOO unethical.
2: Udders in goats, breasts in humans.
3: It’s a bit more complicated than this… but that’s the basic idea of how it works. They have also used retroviruses, but that can be kind of messy/cancer causing.

No comments:

Post a Comment