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Genetically Modifying Silk Worms For Super Silk

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the does-whatever-a-spider-can dept.

Biotech 129

New submitter davidshenba sends this quote from the BBC: "U.S. researchers have created silkworms that are genetically modified to spin much stronger silk (abstract). In weight-for-weight terms, spider silk is stronger than steel. ... Researchers have been trying to reproduce such silk for decades. But it is unfeasible to 'farm' spiders for the commercial production of their silk because the arachnids don't produce enough of it — coupled with their proclivity for eating each other. Silk worms, however, are easy to farm and produce vast amounts of silk — but the material is fragile. Researchers have tried for years to get the best of both worlds — super-strong silk in industrial quantities — by transplanting genes from spiders into worms. But the resulting genetically modified worms have not produced enough spider silk until now. GM worms produced by a team led by Professor Don Jarvis of Wyoming University seem to be producing a composite of worm and spider silk in large amounts — which the researchers say is just as tough as spider silk."

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129 comments

I, for one, (3, Funny)

zoom-ping (905112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583204)

welcome our new super silkworm overlords.

Re:I, for one, (2)

martijnd (148684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583266)

"It's hard to see how a silkworm producing spider silk would have any advantage in nature," he said.

You sir, are on to something. This researcher is showing a clear lack of imagination.

Re:I, for one, (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583366)

"It's hard to see how a silkworm producing spider silk would have any advantage in nature," he said.

You sir, are on to something. This researcher is showing a clear lack of imagination.

If only it were conductive like mithril.

Re:I, for one, (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583698)

welcome our new super silkworm overlords.

The spiders won't become overlords (unless the move to Mars) although if bitten by one it could potentially turn you into a comic book superhero.

Re:I, for one, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38586742)

I'm not worried about the spiders. I'm worried about the silkworms!

Why is there any concern about GM silk? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583208)

Inside the article there was a mention that the GM silk could post a threat to the environment.

Call me dense, but I just don't get it.

We are not talking about something that last forever or what, we are talking about silk - something that is totally biodegradable, and some more, the GM material is a combination of silkworm and spider, both exist in nature.

Anyhoo, congrats to the scientists who come up with this idea.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

kodiaktau (2351664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583262)

Probably a general fear like most GM issues today.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (5, Funny)

shione (666388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583316)

1. Genetically modified spider escapes into the wild. It mates with other sipders creating a legion of these spiders with super silk. The super silk not only catches normal critters but large animals as well get tangled in the web unable to get out. Hope you all have a Phial from the elves.

2. New spider silk isn't as sticky as normal spider silk. Spiders die of starvation. Pests grow to plague proportions

3. Spider spins web in someones doorway. Homeowner is pissed at new wall.

4. Profit! (GM spider escapes into the wild and mates with spiders in someones backyard. Patent troll finds GM spider and sues homeowner of ip theft and distribution!)

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (-1, Flamebait)

Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583490)

1. Genetically modified spider escapes into the wild. It mates with other creating a legion of these spiders with super silk. The super silk not only catches normal critters but large animals as well get tangled in the web unable to get out. Hope you all have a Phial from the elves.

2. New spider silk isn't as sticky as normal spider silk. Spiders die of starvation. Pests grow to plague proportions

3. Spider spins web in someones doorway. Homeowner is pissed at new wall.

4. Profit! (GM spider escapes into the wild and mates with spiders in someones backyard. Patent troll finds GM spider and sues homeowner of ip theft and distribution!)

You're a genius. Let me try that reading and comprehension thingy...

  • 1. Genetically modified silkworm escapes into the wild. It mates with other silkworms creating a legion of these silkworms with super silk that's almost as strong as spider silk. The super silk doesn't even catch flies because the flies fail to inside the little cocoons, and because it's no stronger than a spiders web.
  • 2. New silkworm silk isn't as sticky as normal silkworm silk. Genetically modifed silkworms lay eggs in silk cocoons that fail to stick together and they all die.
  • 3. The End.

I was wrong - you're not actually a genius.

And what the fuck are "sipders" - anal warts from elves?

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583510)

That whoosing sound you hear is the joke flying over your head.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583842)

Except the joke was stupid and made no sense in regards to the summary much less the article.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583904)

Reading and Comprehension thingy, take 2, or maybe just third grade science. Try:

2. Silk moths lay eggs, which hatch into silkworms, which then spin their own cocoon before morphing into silk moths.

Which is about as funny as the GP morphing GM silkworms into spiders so he could make jokes about GM spiders escaping into the wild, and the other AC reply to your post in which the author was in such a big hurry to get his "whoosh" in before anyone else that he wrote "whoosing" instead.

ROTFLMAO. Er, not!

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584054)

The super silk doesn't even catch flies because the flies fail to inside the little cocoons, and because it's no stronger than a spiders web.

Excellent point and let me elaborate! Since the flies fail to inside the little cocoons, because it's no stronger than a spiders web, we can expect silkworms to enjoy fly free cocoons!

You sir, are special kind of genius!

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584520)

1. Genetically modified spider escapes into the wild. It mates with other creating a legion of these spiders with super silk. The super silk not only catches normal critters but large animals as well get tangled in the web unable to get out. Hope you all have a Phial from the elves.

2. New spider silk isn't as sticky as normal spider silk. Spiders die of starvation. Pests grow to plague proportions

3. Spider spins web in someones doorway. Homeowner is pissed at new wall.

4. Profit! (GM spider escapes into the wild and mates with spiders in someones backyard. Patent troll finds GM spider and sues homeowner of ip theft and distribution!)

You're a genius. Let me try that reading and comprehension thingy...

  • 1. Genetically modified silkworm escapes into the wild. It mates with other silkworms creating a legion of these silkworms with super silk that's almost as strong as spider silk. The super silk doesn't even catch flies because the flies fail to inside the little cocoons, and because it's no stronger than a spiders web.
  • 2. New silkworm silk isn't as sticky as normal silkworm silk. Genetically modifed silkworms lay eggs in silk cocoons that fail to stick together and they all die.
  • 3. The End.

I was wrong - you're not actually a genius.

And what the fuck are "sipders" - anal warts from elves?

Yeah, he missed that. BTW "silk worms" are not worms and can't mate or lay eggs. They are larvae of a moth that feeds on leaves from the mulberry tree. Etc.

But not all is lost as we now have Frankensilk which, of course, is to be avoided for the same reasons as Frankenfood. Wait, that doesn't sound right. Oh, well might as well post so I can have some morning coffee.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586052)

Silk worms don't lay eggs in cocoons. They are butterfly larvae and the silk is used to build their coccoon, from which they hatch as butterflies.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583578)

4. Profit! (GM spider escapes into the wild and mates with spiders in someones backyard. Patent troll finds GM spider and sues homeowner of ip theft and distribution!)

The Monsanto effect! Even though you are only trying to be funny, there probably is some level of truth in this. Good insight!

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583832)

in the case of #2, there will be little issue due to this wonderful thing called "Natural Selection". The nice part is, it works, even on unnatural changes.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583964)

1. Genetically modified spider escapes into the wild

They're genetically modifying silk worms, not spiders.

It mates with other sipders creating a legion of these spiders with super silk.

The silk is the same silk that spiders produce normally - that's the point.

New spider silk isn't as sticky as normal spider silk

Spiders produce two kinds of silk (massive oversimplification). The sticky stuff is relatively weak, the non-sticky stuff is used for structural parts of their webs. Go and poke a spiderweb sometime - you'll find some parts stick to you and tear easily, other parts don't stick and are tougher. Presumably the researchers are trying to make silk worms produce the non-sticky variety, as there is little call for silk that sticks to everything and tears very easily.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584282)

Go and poke a spiderweb sometime

Yeah, I'll get right on that.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585354)

Yeah, I'll get right on that.

Did you people never have childhoods?

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584840)

7 types, sir!

Also, there is much variation between types of spiders with Darwin's Bark spider having the strongest silk of all (drag-line silk from the major ampullate gland)!

And the biggest research that needs to be done is in microfluidics because it's the pH, tension, and hydration status of silk dope that determine the properties of the fibers (those three affect the folding/alignment motifs that make up the super-structure. Spiders regulate this by the speed at which they pull the silk from their spinnarettes. A stupid silk worm will never be able to match this (they naturally make a triangular fiber, whereas a spider's is round). We're trying to put silk worm genes into corn and other crap, but bacterial cell factories produce the proteins efficiently already.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584908)

Mod parent up. Sad to see my post with its oversimplification warning sitting at +5 while this one with a much better explanation is at 0.

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583932)

Probably just from people who have been inundated by tent caterpillars, which escaped from a lab and can be seen along many roads..

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

MrLizard (95131) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584528)

Because.... because SCIENCE, that's why! They're tampering in God's domain! There are things man was not meant to know! If it's not 100% safe, it's 100% dangerous, like fire! Fire bad!

Get with the program, will you?

Re:Why is there any concern about GM silk? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38586208)

ummmm...no.

GM is not thought of by it's detractors as SCIENCE, but as CORPORATE. GM's enemies are entirely on the Left at the moment. If it's not 100% free, it's 100% profit, and all profit is THEFT!! Oh, and it's probably bad if it escapes from the lab too.Yeah, that.

Did anyone else read the headline.. (2)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583222)

I remember playing that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583334)

and no, no I wasn't reminded of this, you stuck-in-the-past old fogey.

Stuck on you. (1)

shione (666388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583248)

Will this make a shirt that only I will be able to wear and if someone tries to steal it it sticks to their hand like the anti theft ink found in department stores?

Re:Stuck on you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583352)

So I can run around the mall slapping people and ripping their designer clothes off? That sounds kind of fun!

I mean, I guess I could do that now, but I think the message behind it would be lost...

Re:Stuck on you. (1)

shione (666388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583412)

Just hope that it doesn't extend to the costume industry. It might mean the end to all Santa Claus's.

Re:Stuck on you. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38585130)

It might mean the end to all Santa Claus's.

As written, that is either possessive (that is Santa Claus's) or contractive (Santa Claus's going to be mad). And, typically neither would have the second s, it would be written as Santa Claus'.

Seriously man, learn how the fucking apostrophe works in the English language ... an apostrophe doesn't ever denote plural you dimwit.

Re:Stuck on you. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38586880)

Very astute. There are 10's or 1000's of examples if you just think about it. I got a's in school, by the way.

Just keep Peter Parker out of that lab (5, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583256)

Then everything will be fine.

Re:Just keep Peter Parker out of that lab (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584036)

But if Peter Parker doesn't get the bite, someone else will, and then we won't have Spiderman. We'll have Silkwormman. And that just sounds disgusting.

Re:Just keep Peter Parker out of that lab (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584540)

More disgusting than Spiderman? In case you haven't noticed, spiders spin silk out of their ass, not their forearms. I for one don't welcome our new crotchless superhero overlords.

Re:Just keep Peter Parker out of that lab (1)

RoccamOccam (953524) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585148)

The "Venture Bros." gave attention to that detail. Watch The Brown Widow in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o12YySfp25A [youtube.com]

Re:Just keep Peter Parker out of that lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38585364)

Tarantulas spin silk out of their limbs.

Re:Just keep Peter Parker out of that lab (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585766)

I always wondered why Peter Parker never developed 4 more limbs, or at the very least, 6 more eyes. Mary Jane would've just loved that.

Re:Just keep Peter Parker out of that lab (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586642)

At one point he did develop into a more spiderlike creature, but Dr. Lizardman developed a serum that would halt his genetic mutation. Spiderman even grew a big giant spider head with 8 eyes. Freaky looking.

Submitter did NOT RTFA (4, Informative)

Magada (741361) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583258)

Actual quote from the actual fine article:

their eventual aim is to produce silk from worms that has the toughness of spider silk.

Re:Submitter did NOT RTFA (2)

JimWise (1804930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584800)

Commenter did NOT RTFFA (Read The Full Fine/F*cking Article):

Smack dab in the middle of the article is the actual quote:

GM worms produced by a team led by Professor Don Jarvis of Wyoming University seem to be producing a composite of worm and spider silk in large amounts - which the researchers say is just as tough as spider silk.

Re:Submitter did NOT RTFA (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584918)

What he [slashdot.org] said, basically.

Re:Submitter did NOT RTFA (1)

JimWise (1804930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585236)

You are complaining that the submitter did not read the BBC article, when everything in the submission is taken directly from the article. Even the scientific abstract itself states:

Furthermore, these composite fibers were, on average, tougher than the parental silkworm silk fibers and as tough as native dragline spider silk fibers.

Now you use someone else's post for your support, which refers to tables and figures that I do not see in the BBC article, and not even in the scientific abstract. You have to pay to access the full scientific paper since it is not in print yet, which I suppose is where the table mentioned is located.

It is well and good to point out that the scientific results may not be as strong as what the BBC article makes it out to be, but claiming that the submitter did not read the full BBC article was a (presumably) false statement and did not point to anything that showed why the claim of the strength of the modified silk worms was incorrect.

More details around this spider silk (4, Informative)

kodiaktau (2351664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583270)

Wonder if this is a part of an lead-in [uwyo.edu] on the research.

Looks like WYU is sitting on a ton of patents [uwyo.edu] around spider silk technologies.

Nicer pictures of this article can be found at http://inhabitat.com/genetically-modified-silkworms-spin-super-strong-spider-silk-for-bandages-and-bulletproof-vests/ [inhabitat.com]

GM silkworm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583278)

Just imagine - a silk shirt that will last forever....

while scientist is playing god with silkworm, maybe they can do something about insects that eat corn/etc (see http://news.sudanvisiondaily.com/details.html?rsnpid=204319)

Re:GM silkworm (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583974)

It's also interesting for things that are only partly silk. Pashmina wool comes from the underside of the chin of the nepalese goat and is amazingly soft, but very fragile. You can't make things from it if you want to be able to wear them more than once, so you mix in some silk to add strength[1], but the more silk you add the more of the softness and warmth you lose. Stronger silk would mean that you could weave fabrics with a very small amount of silk and a lot of something softer.

[1] It amused me to see street sellers in NYC advertising pashmina shawls as '50% silk!' as if that was a good thing. The high quality ones are at most 20% silk. The silk is a lot cheaper than the wool.

Re:GM silkworm (3, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585394)

It amused me to see street sellers in NYC advertising pashmina shawls as '50% silk!' as if that was a good thing.

Amazing, since otherwise they seem like the kind of people you can trust.

Re:GM silkworm (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585014)

Just imagine - silk sheets in prison that are strong enough to tie together and climb out of your cell window.

Strong silk is strong (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583390)

WOW! Supersilk. This means stronger women cloths? :D

Re:Strong silk is strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583546)

Alas the Japanese Porn industry will have to resort to cheap chinese low thread count microfiber(AKA Plastic) panties for their clothing ripping fetish. Cheap strong silk panties just won't do.

Goats? (2)

Rytr23 (704409) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583438)

I thought they were putting those spider genes into goats years ago to have them spin the super silk instead of milk. I guess that went nowhere.. I would have liked to seen some goat-spider beast running around...

Re:Goats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583462)

Smells like a cyriak animation waiting to happen.

Re:Goats? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583474)

I thought they were putting those spider genes into goats years ago to have them spin the super silk instead of milk. I guess that went nowhere.. I would have liked to seen some goat-spider beast running around...

I think they switched to pigs when the Simpsons movie came out. Sure, pigs produce nowhere near as much milk, and they've had to throw out years of research with goat DNA, but a spiderpig is just so much cooler.

Re:Goats? (2)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583762)

That's the first thing that came to my mind as well. The goats [nsf.gov] were engineered [physorg.com] to produce milk with high quantities of protein found in spider silk.

P.S. It's a pity that the BBC has to stoop to sensationalising their headlines. "GM silk worms make Spider-Man web closer to reality"? Twits.

Re:Goats? (2)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583780)

...and I forgot to mention that the Goat story also came from UW. Presumably it's the same group involved.

Re:Goats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583966)

LMGTFY: That was Nexia Biotech, and apparently they never really made the process work. They did not have any significant on-going operations when they were acquired by a Chinese company in 2009.

Nexia (2)

Baby Duck (176251) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586652)

I used to own stock in Nexia Biotechnologies, a Canadian company. The goats weren't the problem. Extracting the silk proteins from the milk weren't the problem. Spinning the proteins into silk strands were the problem!

Many of the same proposed applications of the spider silk biosteel could also be fulfilled by nanotubes, but nanotubes would be even stronger. During the same time period that Nexia was improving its spinning process, several companies were making breakthroughs with nanotube manufacturing so that the price per inch would dramatically fall. Nexia saw the writing on the wall. Someone, somewhere, would make cheap nanotubes of appreciable lengths well before Nexia could make a competing offering.

There's also the debacle of Nexia vs. the FDA. Nexia argued that since their silks were natural substances, they didn't need stringent safety testing for applications such as medical sutures. The FDA agreed so Nexia pushed ahead with their next stages of research. Down the road, the FDA changed their mind. Nexia didn't have the capital to afford all the testing trials the FDA was now demanding.

Well before the Chinese company acquired Nexia, Nexia sold most of its intellectual property to an American company (in Virginia? Wyoming?). The bulk of that IP is proven counter-agents to certain chemical warfare attacks.

Interestingly, Nexia was trying to splice spider silk DNA into plants. Grow them as a crop. Grind up their leaves. Sift out the proteins. But then you're still stuck with the underwhelming spinning process.

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583480)

Welcome our new Spider-Worm Overlords.

now my underwear won't tear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583484)

when da bitches try to rip em off me.

Re:now my underwear won't tear (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583722)

when da bitches try to rip em off me.

The problem is that loose thread was like a cheese wire and it ripped your dick off

Please excuse me some SMAC (2)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583612)

I have to upgrade my hovertank to silksteel armor, Yang won't know what hit him!!

Re:Please excuse me some SMAC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584074)

Your thermal boreholes are causing the spider-silk worms to breed out of control!

Note to self... (1)

enaso1970 (759924) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583628)

...go home and invent new brand of steel bristle feather dusters for when these critters escape.

Is this biopiracy? (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583726)

I hope the Chinese get the credit for the original silkworm genes

Re:Is this biopiracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584088)

No..copyright on them expired since it was a Byzantine monk that stole some silkworm eggs in the 6th century.

Re:Is this biopiracy? (2)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584406)

Roughly the same credit Iraqis get for Wheat.

Re:Is this biopiracy? (1)

sponse (1468283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584446)

Shhhh... Don't say that at loud or we end up with some kind of GRM (Genetic Rigths Managment) .

Re:Is this biopiracy? (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586828)

Yeah, because they're really strict about international copyrights and patents.

Meaning of GM (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583748)

Now I understand why that GM beats me at Chess all the time. He's genetically modified :-)

--
Sorry, dumb signatures are currently prohibited.

I want . . . (1)

indytx (825419) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583876)

NPR had a fascinating story a couple of years ago about a spider silk tapestry that had been woven. NPR.org [http] Fabric as soft as silk but stronger than steel, the possibilities are fascinating even if I have to wait a while to have a "that guy" suit made out of the stuff.

Don't genetically modified silkworms... (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38583884)

... feel pain @ being boiled alive for their silk to be of any use? Or is this new silk so sturdy that the worms can't gnaw thru them, and that after the silk is unravelled, they are then free to become cocoons and whatever insect they develop into.

More to the point, can't better silk be synthetically produced on a large scale? Same question applies for other animal based textiles, such as wool, leather, fur, etc

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (1)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584244)

Yeah silk is not very animal-friendly and vegans do avoid it. Unfortunately, this may not be a concern to the non-animal-rights-minded majority.

Even if I was an animal-eater, I still would not like the idea of genetically modifying insects. I know that in this area of CT the mulberry trees were destroyed by introduction of silkworms. Who knows what consequences introduction of a modified silkworm could have? Also I'm scared of killer bees. What are the potential risks of GMO silkworms gone wrong?

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (2)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584346)

I know that in this area of CT the mulberry trees were destroyed by introduction of silkworms.

You are aware that mulberry trees are the natural habitat of silkworms? They're specialists and don't live on anything else. Moreover, it sounds like before that there was relatively little predation upon those trees, allowing them to get much larger and more common than would normally happen. Because of that, what you had there was a classic case of what happens when a predator species is introduced into a prey-rich environment. It happens.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584736)

I know that in this area of CT the mulberry trees were destroyed by introduction of silkworms.

You are aware that mulberry trees are the natural habitat of silkworms? They're specialists and don't live on anything else. Moreover, it sounds like before that there was relatively little predation upon those trees, allowing them to get much larger and more common than would normally happen. Because of that, what you had there was a classic case of what happens when a predator species is introduced into a prey-rich environment. It happens.

Wow!

Mulberry trees were introduced into the US to feed the silkworms that were introduced to the US to help the flagging textile industry in New England. Both mulberries, and the silkworm moth (Gypsy Moth) escaped, and are now a scourge on the entire east coast of the US.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38585436)

Mulberry trees were introduced into the US to feed the silkworms that were introduced to the US to help the flagging textile industry in New England. Both mulberries, and the silkworm moth (Gypsy Moth) escaped, and are now a scourge on the entire east coast of the US.

No.

The Silkworm moth is not the same as a Gypsy moth. Silkworm moth is Bombyx Mori, Gypsy moth is Lymantria Dispar.

The silkworm larvae look nothing like the furry caterpillar of the Gypsy moth. Silkworms eat Mulberry leaves, Furry caterpillars eat oak and other hardwood leaves.

Gypsy moths and furry caterpillars are the scourge of the east coast right now because they are killing the oaks.

Ironically, Gypsy moths were imported to New England by someone trying to create a silk moth hybrid that would be more resistant to disease and the Gypsy moths escaped into the wild. Old school GM I guess.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (2)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585522)

What? Gypsy Moth is Lymantria dispar. Silk worm is Bombyx mori. There are many types of mulberry, and while I'm sure the others have been introduced, there is a species of mulberry tree native to CT.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584648)

Yes lets all sit inside caves and not try any new stuff for fear of everything...

Please castrate yourself and everyone related to you, you stupid mutt.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584276)

More to the point, can't better silk be synthetically produced on a large scale?

Let's think this through for a minute––

If they could synth spider silk on any scale, would anyone be pursuing this? Whadayathink?

Sorry to be so harsh, but honestly, I think you could have looked this up yourself. Spider Silk, and in particular, dragline silk, the strong, resilient, non-sticky stuff, is chemically very complex. A lot of biological stuff is complex enough that we can't just whip them up in a lab. Things like artificial kidneys and livers, eyes, etc. – we have to "grow" real ones in a dish.

Same thing with spider silk.

Just saying'

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (1)

Zaldarr (2469168) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584352)

I can't answer the question about weather the silk is resilient enough for this to happen, I think the point is moot. Whilst vertebrates I believe should be treated humanely in regards to pain, the jury is still out on invertebrates feeling traditional sensations of pain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_in_invertebrates [wikipedia.org] In any case, it is certainly possible to produce such a thing as synthetic animal-textiles, the economic fact is that at present, it is far cheaper and efficient to just farm the animals in question en masse. Although, such research into this area would be very helpful indeed.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584508)

More to the point, can't better silk be synthetically produced on a large scale? Same question applies for other animal based textiles, such as wool, leather, fur, etc

The answer to your question is "No".

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584828)

"More to the point, can't better silk be synthetically produced on a large scale? Same question applies for other animal based textiles, such as wool, leather, fur, etc"
No.
and no.
next question?
Okay lets get a little real here.
1. leather. leather has some qualities that are not found in any other material. It is required for motorcycle racers to wear because it offers the best protection. Nothing man made can replace it. Also most leather is a by product of animals being killed for meat. Exceptions are for some of the exotics which if you want to boycot be my guest as they are nothing but an ego trip. So as long as people eat meat using the leather from that does not contribute to any suffering.
2. Wool. Sheep don't die to get wool folks. As far as I know sheep raised for wool are protected, feed, and cared for by humans. It is an actual advantage for the Sheep and is an almost symbiotic relationship. So what is wrong with wool?
3. Fur. Well unless you live in the arctic I see no reason to wear it. So boycot that all you want.
Silk! if we could make it we would. So no there is no better way. Besides they are just bugs. Sorry folks but if you kill flys, ants, and roaches then you really shouldn't have an issue with this.
I do not like "factory farms" and other forms of animal cruelty but when you go too far in your objections it marginalizes the argument. AKA Wool.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586252)

I'd add a little note to your 1: Nothing we currently produce economically replaces 100% of the effectiveness of leather for motorcycle gear.

There are most certainly replacements available that are good, though quite objectively not as good.

There are also various things that can replace leather for that purpose that are simply far to expensive (on the order of 100x the cost of a leather suit).

Your point is valid but I wasn't happy with your wording of it; I fully support the continued pursuit of entirely artificial armor because it will eventually be cheaper and better (I'm more interested in better than I am cheaper).

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586420)

I frankly do not think anything is as good. The combination of abrasion resistance and flexibility of leather I feel is unmatched at this time. Maybe someday but not today.
For many riders ballistic nylon and kevlar are a good substitute. For road riding possibly better than leather at least in hot weather. But for racing leather is still the best choice.
I don't know of anything even at 100x the cost that beats leather in that application.
I also don't have a problem with using leather since it would otherwise go to waste. Now things like aligator and snake skin are not the leather I am talking about. However if you are going to eat the animal it is only right to use as much of it as possible IMHO and to not waste any of it.

Re:Don't genetically modified silkworms... (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586782)

Alligators are eaten on a large scale in the United States. Not much of an alligator goes to waste. Alligator can be bought at the local grocery store. Nothing wrong with alligator leather if you're worrying about it not being a side product.

Snakes can be eaten, I've never seen snake on the menu in the United States (I'm sure someone, somewhere has), but I do know some people that kill and eat rattlesnakes locally. I've never had it, but it's like the old saying, Tastes like Chicken. Personally I leave snakes alone, and they leave me alone. I imagine all species of snakes can be eaten, but again I've never seen it on a large scale.

In weight-for-weight terms (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583900)

Pound-for-pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on Earth.

Management (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38583996)

it is unfeasible to 'farm' spiders for the commercial production of their silk because the arachnids don't produce enough of it

These spiders obviously need a harsh lesson about the economic climate we live in. They're never going to produce enough if you just get some other creatures to make it instead. Rank all the spiders by silk production, fire the ones at the bottom of the list. Things'll soon turn around.

coupled with their proclivity for eating each other

That's actually a good sign. A little healthy competitive pressure.

Re:Management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584462)

Rank all the spiders by silk production, fire the ones at the bottom of the list. Things'll soon turn around.

I hear Mitt Romney's got time on his hand, and he has lots of experience doing this.

(Now watch one of Mitt's fanbois mod this down. Go ahead, it just prove how close to the mark I am. ;-))

baseline in figures (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584260)

I hate it when it's not clear from the figure or table which of the data refer to the baseline. For those who are interested, dragline is the base.

I do not get it. According to Table 1, modified fiber is 3 times thicker and have worse values???

For example, break stress of dragline is 658 MJ/m3, while the rest is at least 2 times less.

Maximum strain is better for modified, but what's the point of it? Who needs their silk stretched?

Re:baseline in figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38585942)

the same people that need 18" saddles for their guided hunting trips [mnn.com]

Plot device (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584316)

I see an upcoming SyFy 'original' movie on the way.

I was bitten by one. (2)

Maintenance Goof (1487053) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584330)

Now I have worm senses.

Re:I was bitten by one. (1)

GonzoPhysicist (1231558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38586344)

might be useful on Arrakis

The Worst of Both Worlds (1)

fedos (150319) | more than 2 years ago | (#38584424)

They should try giving the silkworms the spiders' proclivity for eating each other.

no not more GMO's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584562)

I for one would never eat GMO silkworms.
Who knows what kind of problems that could cause.
I will stick to eating regular silkworms Thank you very much.

Last time I checked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38584796)

Silk is a little bit more expensive than wool. It's probably far off still, but I'm waiting for sheep with a silk coat instead of a woolen one. Then a few years after that, everyone will be wearing bulletproof clothing.

No spider farms? Great. (3, Funny)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585032)

I am extremely ok with spider farming being infeasible. Accidentally wandering into a spider farm is the stuff of nightmares.

Company sponsoring research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38585106)

The article makes little mention of the company that paid for most of the research at Notre Dame and the University of Wyoming, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories (KBLB).

Next on SyFy (1)

Brainman Khan (1330847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38585662)

SpiderMoth, Followed by Attack of the MothSpiders, and Gargantua Spider Moth vs Monstrous Moth Spider

To think.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38585972)

.. that I saw it eating my neighbors on Mulberry Street.

Dune... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38585718)

THE SILK MUST FLOW!

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