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Other titles in the Scientists in the Field series:
Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope (Scientists in the Field)by Bridget Heos
Synopses & Reviews
Everyone has marveled at a spider web's ability to withstand ferocious rainstorms and howling wind. Now scientists are taking a cue from these durable spinners to craft an incredibly strong manmade spider silk.
The Spider Silk Scientists brings readers face to face with golden orb weaver spiders, as their silk is combined with goat's milk to weave a nearly indestructible fiber that doctors can use to repair or replace joints and ligaments in the human body. Learn how these rapid advancements in genetic medicine are saving and improving lives—all while raising crucial ethical concerns around the use of genetic material.
Readers are introduced to the field of genetics through the story of Randy Lewis, his work with golden orb weavers, his subsequent creation of artificial spider silk, and his ongoing quest to produce spider silk that can be used to save and improve lives.
The golden orb weaver is the largest web-making spider in the world and creates the largest web. It spins six types of silk. These traits lie in the spiders genes, which are the recipes for spider silk, the spiders themselves, and all living things.
Scientists are fascinated by spider silk because it is extremely strong and flexible. The strongest of the silks the spider produces, dragline silk, is pound for pound five times stronger than steel. It can stretch to 50 percent its length without breaking and then return to its original length. Possible uses for this strong and stretchy material include battle armor, parachute rope, and car airbags. And because spider silk is strong but not bulky, it could also be used inside the human body to hold broken bones and tendons in place as they heal.
Until recently, despite its impressive qualities, it was impossible to use spider silk for anything. It was simply too hard to come by. Unlike silk worms, spiders cannot be raised domestically. They are territorial and, when raised in close proximity, they tend to eat each other. And gathering spider silk in the wild is far too time consuming. Enter the goats. When golden orb spider DNA is injected into goats, scientists can extract the materials for this strong web from the goats' milk!
Readers will follow along as spider silk from Randys lab is tested by biomedical researchers for use in tendon therapy, bone repair, and ligament replacement! (The military is also interested in spider silk for body armor, parachute rope, and tethers connecting airplanes to aircraft carriers.)
A timely addition to the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series.
"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 Ã¢Â€Â˜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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
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.
About the Author
Bridge Heos is the author of 12 intermediate and YA nonfiction ttiles, including The Human Genome (2010), The Creation of Peninsulas (2009), The Alkaline Earth Metals (2009) for Rosen Publishing, and What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae (Spring 2011, Lerner).
Prior to working as a children's book author, Bridget freelanced for several newspapers and was the acting editor of a weekly newspaper, writing and shooting many of the articles' photos herself.
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