Stronger than steel Spider silk DNA and the quest for better bulletproof vests, sutures, and parachute rope

Bridget Heos

Book - 2013

"Readers enter Randy Lewis' lab where they come face to face with golden orb weaver spiders and genetically engineered goats, whose milk contains the proteins to spin spider silk--and to weave a nearly indestructible fiber. Learn how this amazing material might someday be used to repair or replace human ligaments and bones, improve body armor, strenghten parachute rope, and even tether an airplane to an aircraft carrier! Readers explore rapid advancements in the application of genetic ...medicine and their potential to save and improve lives while considering the crucial ethical concerns of genetic research. "--

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Children's Room j595.44/Heos Checked In
Series
Scientists in the field.
Subjects
Published
Boston, Mass. : Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 2013.
Language
English
Physical Description
79 p. : col. ill. ; 24 x 29 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 78) and index.
ISBN
9780547681269
0547681267
Main Author
Bridget Heos (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Welcome to the lab of Dr. Randy Lewis, where goat embryos are injected with genes from golden orb weaver spiders. When the goats grow up, some of the females will produce spider silk proteins in their milk. The project aims to produce filaments with the varying degrees of strength and flexibility characteristic of spider silk. Practical applications range from space suits to artificial ligaments to lightweight bulletproof vests. A chapter on the "Ethical Concerns and Lifesaving Possibilities" of transgenic organisms lays out ethical objections to the research and counters each one with a response representing Dr. Lewis' point of view. The overall quality of the photos is quite good, and some pictures are exceptionally fine. At times the text seems aimed at very young children, as it includes details and anecdotes that are unlikely to interest older readers. However, the explanations of Lewis' research will be confusing to students without previous knowledge of genetics. While there's worthwhile information here, the presentation limits the audience for this attractive volume from the Scientists in the Field series. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Move over, Spider-Man. In this addition to the Scientists in the Field series, Heos offers a window into astonishing real-life research conducted by biologist Randy Lewis, who studies the potential uses for spider silk in products like artificial tendons, spacesuits, body armor, and more. It might sound like a B movie plot, but it's pure science: Lewis and his team inject goat embryos with spider genes. As a result, some of the goat offspring become "transgenic," allowing spider silk proteins to be collected through their milk. "Randy uses old-fashioned farm sense," Heos explains. "To get good milk producers, he breeds a ‘spider goat' with a goat whose family members produce lots of milk." Lewis's team also experiments with injecting alfalfa and silkworms with arachnid genes. Abundant photographs and a lively narrative make the topic accessible and almost lighthearted, and Heos lays groundwork for readers with a basic introduction to DNA and gene theory. Ethical questions surrounding genetic engineering are briefly addressed, and the book's candid and detailed discussion provides fodder for readers who wish to engage in a broader conversation. Ages 10–14. Agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 5–9—This title explores the world of genetic engineering, focusing specifically on generating spider silk proteins in such quantity/quality as to warrant commercial development. Why spider silk? The title tells it succinctly. Stronger than steel, it is also flexible and stretchable, and can be spun into surgical sutures and artificial ligaments and woven into bulletproof vests and military-style body armor, among a host of other things. Heos's lively text, full of somewhat demanding concepts, takes readers into "Spider-Man" Randy Lewis's lab at the University of Wyoming, a world of transgenic alfalfa, bacterial "hosts" for spider DNA, and ultimately to a flock of transgenic goats whose milk now carries spider-silk proteins. Complex processes such as the isolation of a spider-silk gene, its introduction into a bacterium, and its subsequent removal to be injected into embryonic goats are lucidly described. As to ethical questions of "messing about" with the genetic code? Heos writes of the problems inherent if "escaping" transgenic pollen mixes into the world of nontransgenic flora. She speaks of the euthanization of transgenic goats that produce little or no spider-silk proteins in their milk, and even of non-transgenic goats to keep the herd a manageable size. And she speaks of people opposed to genetic engineering for moral and religious reasons, all the while providing scientific "best case" scenarios of its practical and beneficial applications. A complex, controversial topic, positively presented.—Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY [Page 178]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"In The Spider Silk Scientists, readers enter Randy Lewis' lab where they come face to face with golden orb weaver spiders and genetically engineered goats, whose milk contains the proteins to spin spider silk--and to weave a nearly indestructible fiber.Learn how this amazing material might someday be used to repair or replace human ligaments and bones, improve body armor, strenghten parachute rope, and even tether an airplane to an aircraft carrier! Readers explore rapid advancements in the applicationof genetic medicine and their potential to save and improve lives while considering the crucial ethical concerns of genetic research. A timely addition to the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series. "--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An introduction to the field of genetics is told through the story of Randy Lewis and his work with golden orb weaver spiders as well as his subsequent creation of artificial spider silk that can be used to save and improve lives.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An introduction to the field of genetics is told through the story of Randy Lewis and his work with golden orb weaver spiders as well as his subsequent creation of artificial spider silk that can be used to save and improve lives. 20,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

In Stronger Than Steel, readers enter Randy Lewis' lab where they come face to face with golden orb weaver spiders, and transgenic alfalfa, silkworm silk, and goats, whose milk contains the proteins to spin spider silk--and to weave a nearly indestructible fiber. Learn how this amazing material might someday be used to repair or replace human ligaments and bones, improve body armor, strengthen parachute rope, and even tether an airplane to an aircraft carrier! Readers explore rapid advancements in the application of genetic medicine and their potential to save and improve lives while considering the crucial ethical concerns of genetic research. A timely addition to the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

An introduction to the field of genetics through the story of Randy Lewis and his work with golden orb weaver spiders and his subsequent creation of artificial spider silk that can be used to save and improve lives.

Review by Publisher Summary 6

An introduction to the field of genetics through the story of Randy Lewis and his work with golden orb weaver spiders and his subsequent creation of artificial spider silk that can be used to save and improve lives.

Review by Publisher Summary 7

In Stronger Than Steel, readers enter Randy Lewis' lab where they come face to face with golden orb weaver spiders, and transgenic alfalfa, silkworm silk, and goats, whose milk contains the proteins to spin spider silk--and to weave a nearly indestructible fiber. Learn how this amazing material might someday be used to repair or replace human ligaments and bones, improve body armor, strengthen parachute rope, and even tether an airplane to an aircraft carrier! Readers explore rapid advancements in the application of genetic medicine and their potential to save and improve lives while considering the crucial ethical concerns of genetic research. A timely addition to the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series.