What do you get when you cross a spider with a goat? It sounds like it should be the start of a joke, but the spider goat project reflects just one of many disturbing genetic hybridisation projects.
You have heard of Spiderman and spider monkeys; fans of the cartoon “The Simpsons” will even have seen spider pig – but my question is… have you ever heard of a spider goat?
Genetic scientists have incorporated selected spider DNA into goat embryos to engineer a hybrid spider goat – and here’s why….
Spiders can produce an amazing substance, highly desirable, more valuable than gold – that substance is SPIDER SILK.
We all walk past webs every day, never giving them a second thought but those webs are constructed by an incredible material. Next time you see one, consider the following facts:-
• Is five times stronger (weight for weight) than steel
• Can be stretch by a factor of up to 40% without snapping or losing integrity
• Does not decay, dry out or become brittle over time
• Is completely immune to microbial and fungal degradation
• Is completely waterproof
• Is extremely light in relation to its strength.
• Is compatible with the human body in terms of the reproduction of biological tissues such as tendons or ligaments
Human applications for spider silk would be limitless, yet, despite access to a wealth of highly advanced scientific technology, artificial reproduction of spider silk has proved to be impossible.
Recent advancements in the field of genetics have opened a pathway towards attainment of this “holy grail” of materials.
Nexia Biotechnologies in Quebec along with scientists at the U.S. Army’s Soldier Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM) in Natick, Mass have taken the specialised silk producing gene from a spider and inserted it into a goat embryo.
The result is a goat……that looks like a goat, acts like a goat, BUT produces milk which contains proteins which, when treated, produce a very close imitation of the valuable spider silk.
A single goat only produces small amounts of the desired material, so an extremely large herd is required to acquire useful quantities.
Genetically engineered spider silk may be an extremely valuable and useful material – but – the issue of ethics and morals cannot be ignored.
From a moral perspective – We have all seen tremendous leaps in technological capability within our lifetimes – but – should planetary supremacy entitle the human race to inflict inhumane, unnatural acts upon any sub-intellectual life-form for financial gain? When the same question is asked in relation to medical advancement it becomes a very difficult question to answer easily.
From a religious perspective – Genetic Engineering could be compared to playing God.
Interestingly, Gregg Braden, revealed in his book “The God Code”, that after twelve years of research, a message could be found within all DNA. When translating DNA’s chemical sequencing into letters – the phrase “God/Eternal within the body” were de-coded. Could altering the potentially sacred DNA code be tantamount to blasphemy?
Like it or not, we now stand at the dawn of an age of scientific genetic revolution – scientists are steaming ahead with new experimentation in this field; genetic modification, hybridisation, cloning – a quest for knowledge and control… but to what end?
The wider long term effects and implications of the current applications of genetic modification of food, animals and even human life are not yet known.
Who knows what future choices genetic engineering will offer us? Who’s to know where the moral boundaries are, when to stop – or who, ultimately will make those ethical decisions and regulate procedures?