The tragic end of spider farming

As a farmer, the last thing you want is a territorial, cannibalistic horde of livestock.


Spider farming is no longer a viable option. ( Someone has to tell this guy who takes spider farming to a whole new leve.l)

I know what you’re saying, your dreams have just been crushed, just after you found out it was

http://www.flickr.com/photos/98495466@N03/9219114407/sizes/z/in/photostream/

a viable career the world no longer needs you farm spiders.

Why you say, why do we have to stop? Spider silk is stronger than steel!

Well, scientists have found a way to bypass farming spiders altogether; by getting silk worms to make it for them. Farming silk worms is easy. They’re docile, easily cultivated en masse and have very few cannibalistic tendencies.

By swopping one of the silkworms’ genes for a spider-silk producing gene, the silkworms managed to spin composite silk fibres stronger than their regular silk.

Not that regular silk is anything to be sniffed at. Silkworm silk has been around for over 2000 years and is currently used for a variety of textile and medical applications such as wound dressing, tissue scaffolds and sutures for stitching up wounds.

It’s just that with the spider silk incorporated, this composite is strong enough to create artificial tendons and light-weight bullet proof clothing. Some groups even think it may be a biodegradable alternative to plastics.

Putting the spider silk gene into silkworms isn’t even the weirdest thing this group have done. Others have put spider silk protein in plants, in bacteria and, bizarrely, in goat’s milk.

At least silkworms have the required body parts to spin the protein into silk threads. What is a goat going to do with spider silk? Make strong, webby milk?

Essentially, hybrid spider-worm silk is pretty much the closest we’ll ever get to spiderman, and who knows? Maybe a bite from a genetically modified silkworm will induce super-powers to one of you dejected spider-farmers out there.

Published in Proceedings of Natural Academy of Sciences
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/01/02/1109420109.full.pdf+html

 


5 Responses to “The tragic end of spider farming”

  1. Bridget Tan says:

    I’ve never heard of spider farming/spider silk! I would definitely want to try on something that is made out of spider silk. Very interesting!

  2. tessae says:

    Karen, and travnv, I was being a bit misleading, they currently don’t farm spiders because it is too difficult to extract the web silk consistently. However those looking into it know all sorts of properties about it. That’s why it’s so cool that they’ve managed to get silkworms to spin it as it makes it viable commerically.

  3. tranv says:

    To be honest, I’ve never heard of spider farming. I saw the title of your post and gave a weird look but after reading your post, it’s really a shame that the business will no longer run. But using the spider silk properties for various human applications sounds very promising! I would love to have the ability to spin web and swing around like Spiderman!

  4. ashcornell says:

    Nice post Tessa!

    Talk about poor job security for these spider farmers! But at least the application is good and practical in that it’s less dangerous but the product, as far as I know, is unchanged. I’m with you in thinking that perhaps putting the spider silk protein in goat’s milk is not very viable. *That* would give cheese some interesting texture!

  5. Karen says:

    This is a fascinating idea, but I was wondering what we use spider silk for? Is it simply a stronger, more durable alternative to conventional silkworm silk?