silk is an undoubtedly tough material. Just last year, a zoologist from the
University of Puerto Rico discovered that the webs of C.
darwini, or Darwin's bark spider, are twice as elastic as any silk from
other web-weaving spiders and are 10 times better than the fiber material
Jalila Essaidi, of the Forensic Genomics Consortium in the Netherlands, along
with contributors from other research institutes in the Netherlands and the
U.S., have developed a "bulletproof" skin that was originally an art
project that demonstrated the "relative concept of safety."
To make the patch of skin, Essaidi used a brand of spider silk that came from
Utah State University. The silk is a result of genetically modified goats and
worms, where the spider silk protein is harvested from the goat milk to make
Essaidi then obtained human skin cells from Leiden University
Medical Center in the Netherlands.
The spider silk and human skin cells were combined to create the "bulletproof" patch of
skin. While this piece of skin is somewhat bulletproof, it cannot repel
fast-moving bullets. For instance, it was pierced by a bullet shot at normal
speed from a .22 caliber rifle, which is the standard level of protection for a
Type 1 bulletproof vest. However, the patch of skin was able to prevent the
penetration of a bullet shot at lower speeds (the researchers conveniently didn’t
report the how fast the “lower speeds” were).
"Even with the 'bulletproof' skin being pierced by the faster bullet, the
experiment is, in my view, still a success," said Essaidi. "The art
project is based on and leads to a debate on the question, 'Which forms of
safety are socially important?"
This skin shield could someday be improved and used for military use on the
battlefield, as well as other forms of protection. But for now,
this patch of skin is on display at the National History Museum Naturalis in
Leiden, Netherlands until January 8, 2012.