A spider's web that could catch an F-16

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The Independent Online

Scientists made synthetic spider silk that is five times stronger than steel yet soft enough to be woven into a bulletproof vest.

Scientists made synthetic spider silk that is five times stronger than steel yet soft enough to be woven into a bulletproof vest.

Genes of a spider's silk-making glands were inserted into mammalian cells growing in a test tube to produce silky strands that could be woven into fibres.

Researchers have already inserted the genes into farm animals and hope to harvest bigger amounts of the artificial spider silk from the milk of nanny goats, later this year, .

Making industrial quantities of spider silk has been the dream of biotechnologists for more than a decade. The silk is biodegradable and yet has unparalleled strength.

Researchers from Nexia Biotechnologies, a company based in Quebec, and the US Army inserted the genes of two species of orb spider, the common garden spider, into the cells of cows and hamsters growing in culture.

Writing in the journal Science, they said the resulting fibres possessed mechanical properties similar to dragline silk used by orb spiders to make the tough "spokes" radiating from their webs.

They said the toughness of the artificial fibres was equal to a spider's web that would be able to catch an F-16 aircraft if the silk were as thick as a washing line.

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