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Human skin strengthened with spider silk can stop a bullet

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 02:16

Sept. 20 - A Dutch artist has blended spider silk with human skin to produce a super-strong material that can stop a bullet at half its regular speed. Jalila Essaïdi collaborated with cell biologist Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri to produce the material which is three times tougher than Kevlar. Stuart McDill reports.

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Firing a bullet into a piece of modified human skin - the video itself, along with a skin sample, are works by Dutch artist, Jalila Essaïdi. Works that stands up to the harshest of critiques. Essaïdi's idea came from her interest in combining the genius of the natural world and the temporary nature of life. (SOUNDBITE)(English), ARTIST, JALILA ESSAIDI, SAYING: "The idea started in 2001, when I read an article from Dr. Randy Lewis who created transgenic goats and I really got inspired by that idea, because he created spider silk to produce on a large scale for bulletproof vests, and I though why bother with bulletproof vest, why not create a bulletproof human instead?" The blended skin was the result of a collaboration with a cell biologist - the layers of spider silk embedded in the skin allow the cultivation of larger sheets of tissue which literally outgrow the petri dish. But what began as a work of art has now become a project with scientific value. Tests show the fabric skin being hit and holding a .22 bullet fired at a reduced speed. Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri says the weave is three times stronger than kevlar - a normal bullet proof vest has 33 layers of composite materials but he says the silk has real potential. (SOUNDBITE)(English) ABDOELWAHEB EL GHALBZOURI, LEIDEN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER SAYING: "We had only four layers of silk which is of course nothing compared to 33, so we believe that if we generate a skin model with 33 layers, I think we can definitely hold a bullet, yeah, I am 100 percent sure about it." The applications for the blended skin are likely to stretch far beyond art with research suggesting the silk provides a viable framework for cell growth. (SOUNDBITE)(English) ABDOELWAHEB EL GHALBZOURI, LEIDEN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER SAYING: "Next to skin, spider silk could be a very good scaffold for bone regeneration, cartilage, tendons, ligaments." El Ghalbzouri says the potential it enormous. While it won't replace kevlar any time soon, art and science are combining to weave a future made of silk. Stuart McDill, Reuters

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Human skin strengthened with spider silk can stop a bullet

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 02:16

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