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Spider Silk and Human Skin Blend Stops a Bullet

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Published on Sep 20, 2011

A Dutch artist has blended spider silk with human skin to produce a superstrong material that can stop a bullet at half its regular speed. Jalila Essaïdi collaborated with cell biologist Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri to produce the material which is three times tougher than kevlar.

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Dutch artist Jalila Essaïdi (pronounced: Ja-leela Es-eye-Dee) and cell biologist Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri (pronounced: Abdul-Waheeb El Galb-zoory) blended spider silk with human skin to produce a superstrong material that can stop a rifle bullet shot at half its regular speed.

Time to move over Kevlar? Not quite yet, but the new weave could turn out to have various medical uses.

Essaïdi's original art work is a lab sample of skin tissue stored in a refrigerator and accompanied by a video showing a gunshot test on the material.

However, such grafted skin is still half way from being truly bulletproof.

[Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri, Leiden University Medical Center]:
"Spider silk has shown to be three times stronger than kevlar, so the bullet proof vests are generated with 33 layers of kevlar. In this experiment we shot a bullet at our spider silk model, we had only four layers of silk which is of course nothing compared to 33, so we believe that if we generate a skin model with 33 layers, I think we can definitely hold a bullet, yeah, I am 100 percent sure about it."

Bullet proof vests made of spider silk may be several years from reality, but the experiments have demonstrated other possibilities for the material, such as in skin grafting for burn-wound patients.

Some studies show that incorporating regular silk in burn wounds encourages faster healing and less scarring.

While human cells appear to adhere well to spider silk, more research is needed.

[Abdoelwaheb El Ghalbzouri, Leiden University Medical Center]:
"Next to skin, spider silk could be a very good scaffold for bone regeneration, cartilage, tendons, ligaments."

Other applications for the spider silk alone include surgical stitches, thanks to its strength and elasticity, as well as parachutes and parachute cords.

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