August192011

Art or Science, I Care Not

By implementing this bulletproof matrix of spider silk produced by transgenic goats in human skin I want to explore the social, political, ethical and cultural issues surrounding safety in a world with access to new biotechnologies. Issues which arise on the basis of ancient human desire for invulnerability. It is legend that Achilles, the central character of Homer’s Iliad was invulnerable in all of his body except for his heel. Will we in the near future due to biotechnology no longer need to descend from a godly bloodline in order to have traits like invulnerability?

Imagine a spidersilk vest, capable of catching bullets, the modern day equivalent of Genghis Khan’s arrows. Now, let’s take this one step further, why bother with a vest: imagine replacing keratin, the protein responsible for the toughness of the human skin, with this spidersilk protein. This is possible by adding the silk producing genes of a spider to the genome of a human: creating a bulletproof human.

For this project Dr. Randy Lewis donated a batch of spidersilk produced by these transgenic goats and silkworms. In order to process this spidersilk into a bulletproof matrix capable of supporting cell growth I had to travel all over Western Europe and the silk itself has been all over the globe. Strangely enough I couldn’t find many people with a spidersilk weaving expertise ;-)

This may have been designed as an art project, and the disclaimer may say otherwise about this not showing any true potential, but the fact remains that the team fired bullets at transgenic skin and the skin withstood the shot. There’s a bit too much transhuman nonsense for me to get overly excited, but I do approve of using the materials found in nature to engineer better objects, in this case better body armor.

(Source: jalilaessaidi.com)

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