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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.

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  1. It was a hundred and five today. The low tonight is supposed to be eighty. From the time my Dept. got Kevlar to today we wore those vests, well now that I’m retired I don’t but, man, if they ever figure out something lighter and more breathable than Kevlar I’m all for it. If it took growing a new skin, even if it’s metal-flake candy apple red the kids who aree signing on to wear blue in, say, Houston or Yuma, would be all over it.

  2. I still don’t think it’ll fully surpass Kevlar or plates, but it can make it less bulky. It’ll be an added protection and maybe the bulk in plates are just to protect the guy using the vest from the blunt force. Still pretty cool. And I sense it might be the new Kevlar. Used in many more other applications than just vests.

    Now we need more points into this tech tree and maybe we can unlock full-scale industrial use of Carbon Nanotubes and Spider Silk.


  3. Anything that will allow more flexibility would be great. The vest can be constricting for work. Although, I’m sure it won’t slow down a knife attack.

  4. That is awesome on so many levels. Soon, one of these mad scientists will develop a way for us to hybridize with magical ponies and then we can truly take over! Bwahahahahaa!


    So it looks like a great advancement. It won’t replace primary armor, but that hardly needs to be stated. What it will is make the skin holding your insides stronger — a very good advancement not just for law enforcement and the military, but also for a ton of other uses. With today’s armor, much of the body is exposed — particularly joints. Anything that can minimize damage to exposed meat is a plus. And this is likely one step closer to developing a human that can withstand explosive decompression and/or vacuum; a definite nice-to-have (if not requirement) if we are to explore space (safely or not).

  5. Godwin alert. A German scientist was allowed to brief the Fuhrer on his progress in harvesting Jewish skin to repair burned heroes of the Russian front. Hitler congratulated him, went into the next room, threw up, and continued with his vegetarian lunch.

    Goes to show that, with a virtually unlimited supply of goats, spiders, and human flesh, the Nazis really were pikers in the bizarre experiment department.

  6. Waste of time. Someone will simply invent a higher velocity cartridge to defeat it. Kevlar is already defeated by all rifle calibers as well as many pistol varieties. There’s a reason why soldiers wear ceramic plates under their vests as well. And AP rounds defeat that anyway.

  7. Armor is usually a recipe, sometimes with more than one ingredient. I can see this becoming part of a composite solution. Just like ceramic plates are added to a kevlar vest.

  8. Very interesting article. I certainly could see spider silk being a part of the solution in the future. However, combining it with human skin might pose a few problems. I for one won’t be an early adopter of this technology.

  9. Scientist no matter wat u do but no 1 can deceive death b’coz everybody has 2 die 1day wat if sombody shoots in d head , eye or ears , Any protection 4 these body parts 2


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