Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope

Bridget Heos, Author, Andy Comins, Illustrator
Bridget Heos, photos by Andy Comins. Houghton Mifflin, $18.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-547-68126-9
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 02/26/2013
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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.)
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