This undated high-speed camera image provided by Jalila Essaidi shows a .22 caliber bullet hitting but not breaking the “bulletproof” skin created by Dutch artist Jalila Essaidi with the help of Utah State research Randy Lewis. Lewis supplied the silk threads from a genetically engineered silk worm that Essaidi weaved into a lattice of human skin cells to create a layer that was capable of repelling a bullet. Lewis believes his genetically engineered spider silk from worms and goats can be used to help surgeons heal large wounds and create artificial tendons and ligaments.
A bio-art project to create bulletproof skin has given a Utah State researcher even more hope his genetically engineered spider silk can be used to help surgeons heal large wounds and create artificial tendons and ligaments.
Researcher Randy Lewis and his collaborators gained worldwide attention recently when they found a commercially viable way to manufacture silk fibers using goats and silkworms that had spider genes inserted into their makeup.
Spider silk is one of the strongest fibers known and five times stronger than steel. Lewis' fibers are not that strong but much stronger than silk spun by ordinary worms.
"Randy and I were moved by the same drive I think, curiosity about the outcome of the project," Essaidi said in an email interview. "Both the artist and scientist are inherently curious beings."
Lewis thought the project was a bit off the wall at first, Essaidi acknowledged.
"But in the end, what curious person can say no to a project like this?" she said.