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Stronger Than Steel,9780547681269

Stronger Than Steel

by ;
Format: Hardcover
Pub. Date: 2/26/2013
Publisher(s): Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Availability: This title is currently not available.


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 Scientistsbrings 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 livesall 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 spider's 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 Randy's 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.

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