When my grandmother, Nannan, was at the end of her life, and choosing to subsist almost entirely on cheese Twisties and Country Cheese biscuits, she would say some funny things. Maybe she was suffering from artificial cheese flavour poisoning, but more likely, she was just old and a bit senile.
Like most old people, she was concerned about where the World Was Heading, and many of her stranger comments were on this theme, informed – although I use that word loosely – by alarming things she had seen on television.
Around the time of Dolly the cloned sheep, I remember a conversation in which she expressed concern about these kind of genetic modifications. She said she had seen on the television that they were crossing goats with spiders to make goats that produce spiders’ web wool. This was obviously ridiculous. And actually pretty gruesome.
Fast forward ten years, and bugger me sideways, it’s actually happening:
Professor Lewis and his team at the University of Wyoming have successfully implanted the silk-making genes from a golden orb spider into a herd of goats and are now, finally, producing one of nature’s strongest products in useable quantities.
It’s not quite as Nannan envisioned, but it’s actually just as freaky:
“(The splicing) turned out to be relatively easy as there are known gene promoters that only produce expression in the mammary gland during lactation,” he said.
“Those were hooked up to our spider silk genes.”
After the milk is collected, it’s taken back to a laboratory where the silk protein is filtered out. It solidifies when exposed to air and is wound onto a roller.
Prof Lewis said the team collected about four metres of silk for every four drops of protein they gathered.
WHERE IS THE WORLD HEADING.
There’s a lesson here, kids: listen to your elders. And eat more Twisties.