Kevlar’s so yesterday. Or it will be. The vests are bulky, hot and expensive. So it would be mighty nice to be able to protect a soldier, cop, or a civilian without one. That’s the goal, at least, of a team of intrepid Dutch researchers. They’ve fashioned a less-than-appetizing concoction of spider silk, goats milk and human skin that’s strong enough to stop a bullet. OK, it’s a reduced-speed .22, but it’s a helluva start…
Spider silk might not seem like much, but it’s the toughest of all the silks in existence. Its many times stronger than steel, and it’s the toughest natural protein fiber. With that much strength, spider silk is capable of a great many things. And when woven together, it could even stop bullets.
Jalilia Essaidi thought that perhaps there could be one less layer between the person and the spider silk. Why not combine spider silk with human skin? (It isn’t that simple, and the experiment did not include a person.) Theoretically, though, the spider silk protein could take the place of keratin which is responsible for the toughness of human skin.
Rather, genetically enhanced goats were infused with spider silk at the genetic level. The goats then produced milk that carried the spider silk protein which was then spun into a matrix laced with human skin cells.
The synthesized human skin managed to stopped a “reduced speed” .22 bullet. Scoff if you want, but at this early stage in the development, stopping even a slow .22 is impressive. Ick factor aside, of course.
It’s not clear from the article how the genetically infused goats milk would affect the skin of a live human. Short of a Peter Parker-type situation, there may be, well, ethical considerations in hybridizing a person’s dermis.
The Dutch team’s lead scientist, Essaidi, has made what I’m sure is a very informative YouTube video about the process (at the above link). You can see slo-mo footage of the bullet hitting the skin beginning at the 7:00 mark. Not being a Nederlander and lacking Dutch language skills, it’s difficult to appreciate the rest of the presentation. A brief synopsis by any Dutch-speaking Armed Intelligentsia members out there would be much appreciated.