Perhaps one of the strangest things they've done with genetic alteration yet, implanting spider genes in goats. I mean, come on, that's just entirely too twisted. I suppose they aren't hurting anything.. at least not yet, just wait until we've got eight-legged venomous goats running around, then they'll be sorry.

Any way, this BioSteel stuff is kind of a neat idea, aside from the insanity that is biotechnology in general. What they've done is put the gene that leads to silk production in spiders, into goats, and in turn the milk they produce will have some special form of protein in it. From this protein, they'll be able to produce a material known as BioSteel which will be used in the production of bullet proof vests, aerospace and medical supplies. The elasticity and strength of spider silk is pretty unique, and the fact that it's lightweight makes it even more useful.

This goat operation is going to be in upstate New York somewhere, and they've got a little less than 200 goats with the gene now. Ah, the crazyness of it all.. I just really don't want to be around when the whole thing goes terribly wrong. Then, instead of biotechnology headlines, it will be, "CRAZY FU#$*IN' GOAT SPIDER TERRORIZES NEW YORK!". Oh sure, they say, there's no danger, no, nothing to worry about.. we'll see about that.

Nexia Biotechnologies Inc. is the company. BioSteel is the product and corporate representatives claim it to be ten times stronger than steel, which could have obvious military and cosmetics applications as a replacement for Kevlar, which goes into everything from body armor to lipstick. Medical, industrial and space applications are also being dreamed up Head office located in an industrial park on the outskirts of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, on the western tip of the Island of Montreal. They use modified goat mammary cells to generate small quantities of milk containing the vital silk protein. The next step is a complete goat.

As to the propriety of such experimentation, hamsterbong's already pretty much right on- its the manipulation of animal life as a cost-cutting measure and industrial shortcut. Genetic engineering may be wildly profitable (after all the world-wide prescription drug industry surpasses even computer hardware in sales) but this seems like a dreadfully slippery slope. See also : Genetic Engineering, and How We Can Survive or Does the pace of technology outpace our ability to use it for good? nodes.

Other companies developing along this line:

  • PPL Therapeutics of Scotland. Growing sheep that secrete a drug called antitrypsin -- used to treat cystic fibrosis -- in their milk.
  • Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme Transgenics Corp. Manufactures goats whose milk contains antithrombin III, a protein that breaks down blood clots.
  • Dutch company Pharming Inc. has created a breed of cows that produces lactoferrin, another human protein used for treating infection.
  • U.S. military-venture Soldier Biological and Chemical Command in Natick, Mass. Experimented with recombinant bacteria.

Source : Their spiders have horns : Nexia Biotechnologies describes its quest to develop transgenic goats that produce spider silk as 'the holy grail of the materials industry' National Post. Saturday, June 17, 2000

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