Logan, Utah — Genetically engineered “spider silk” made from goat hairs and silk from silkworms into which spider genes were inserted may some day help surgeons heal large wounds and create artificial tendons and ligaments, Medical News Today reports.
Developed by Utah State University researcher Randy Lewis, Ph.D., the material was used in an artist’s experiment that wove a lattice of human skin cells and silk capable of stopping a .22 caliber bullet fired at reduced speeds. Using a high-speed camera, the artist showed a bullet fired at a reduced speed piercing skin woven with ordinary worm’s silk. However, skin woven with the genetically engineered silk, grafted between the dermis and epidermis, did not break when the bullet hit it. The “skin” was mounted on a special gelatin block used at the Netherlands Forensic Institute.
Medical News Today quotes Dr. Lewis as saying, “We were more than a little surprised that the final skin kept the bullet from going in there,” although he noted that the bullet still ended up 2 inches into the torso, so the artificial skin would not have saved a life. “But without a doubt the most exciting part for us is the fact that they were able to recreate the skin on top of our fibers. It’s something we haven’t done. Nobody has worked in that area.”
He said using the material to replace large amounts of human skin could be significant for surgeons trying to cover large wounds or treat people with severe burns.