A German team, writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, describes their design for a device that mimics the silk-producing process of spiders. The team speculates that the device could produce fibers for tough, lightweight materials (for use in, e.g., medical equipment)—fibers that are, weight for weight, five times stronger than steel.
Spiders naturally secrete their silk as water-soluble proteins forced through an anatomical feature called a spinneret. But until now—and “despite years of research,” the BBC notes—researchers haven’t been able to replicate the process well enough to produce useful quantities of silk.
The team genetically engineered spider silk proteins using bacteria.
So what was the German team’s breakthrough? The team genetically engineered spider silk proteins using bacteria, then fed these silks into a glass etching that mixes them with salt solutions. The salt clumps the proteins together, then they are forced through a channel that results in a fiber.
But for the University of Oxford’s Fritz Vollrath, who holds a 2002 U.S. patent for a device similar to the German team’s, this latest breakthrough is the latest in a line of products that come up short. “It’s another important small step towards making the material. It adds a piece to the puzzle, but it’s a very big puzzle and there are many pieces missing.”
Furthermore, Oxford Biomaterials chief scientific officer David Knight notes that harvesting natural silks is still cheaper and more reliable than genetically engineering them in the lab. “[A]ll that is just a recipe for capital and energy intensivity,” he said in reference to the production processes.
Time and time again, scientists study and stand in awe of (the Creator’s) incredible designs—designs that defy human engineering and stymie our attempts to replicate them. Yet time and time again, secular scientists (and even, sadly, many “theistic” evolutionists as well) ignore the source of these incredible designs or credit them only to chance mutations shaped by the blind forces of natural selection.
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