Gem from GK Chesterton

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

From The Everlasting Man

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Creepy or Creepy? BioSteel

I'm not even putting a poll widget on this one.  It's as creepy* as it is true: BioSteel  

They milk goats who have been genetically combined with spiders to form a super strong, super light weight spider silk material within the milk which is then used for a variety of applications. The goats also have been altered to lactate at an earlier age to speed production.  Because, darn it, who wants to wait that long for the spidergoats to lactate?

Here's a quote from the Nexia Biotechnologies homepage.  Read it word by word, slowly, and chew on each morsel.  Now spit it out... quickly! Rinse.  Repeat.

BioSteel® is Nexia's recombinant dragline spider silk program and is based on using Nexia's transgenic goat technology.

I'm fine through the first three words, except for "BioSteel" and "Nexia".  Now I'm going to translate** the rest of the words in order as it dives deeper into the creepiness:

Recombinant:   Moving and rearranging genes from one place to another.  Not creepy by itself, except that they are talking about rearranging genes, not from one animal to another, but from one major taxonomic classification to another.  This is not species level stuff.  It is kingdom level fiddling. Never a good idea if you ask me.

Dragline:  The larger and stronger of the spider web components.  Used to anchor the rest of the web.  And speaking of anchoring something that shouldn't go adrift, did you just see that whispy thread of common sense float by?

Spider:  Large insect*** with horrible fangs and claws.   That's right, they're combining Shelob (an "evil thing in spider form") with Pan.  That's going to be one messed up flute player.  Tolkien would not be happy.  Nor Hariprasad Chaurasia.

Silk: Technical, jargony mad-scientist term for spider webs. And soy milk.

Program: Plot to destroy the planet by combining wildly divergent life forms such as Spiders & Goats to make BioSteel.  In a few years the "program" will roll out these combos: Slug/Lobster, Porcupine/Bat, and Tick/Whale, and Teletubby/MyLittlePony. 

And: In addition to.  Also.  See what I mean? There's way more ahead, the hits keep coming.

Is:  Current fact. Inevitable, unchangeable, inalterable.

Based:  Grounded.  Founded upon.  C'mon, it's not founded on anything but a rip off of every Marvel Comic plot.  This is a shoe-in for the presitigious "Scientific Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong Award".

On:  Atop of. Over.  Or, if you will, over the top. 

Using: Ingesting large amounts of phychotropic drugs, causing one to: A) Think of the idea in the first place; and B) Think the idea was good.

Nexia:  Acronym for "Never Ending Xperiment In Absudity"

Transgenic:  Creepy craziness crossdressing in the garments of the rational.

Goat: Large hairy insect*** that eats tin cans.  "Goat" is a word, that according to all laws of nature, was never meant to be followed by the next word below:

Technology:  Random and dangerous throw-it-up-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks experimentation.  Of the type performed by kids who survived the "Hey-Jimmy-let's-mix-all-these-random-household-cleaners-from-under-the-sink-then-light-it-on-fire" episodes of childhood.

Nuff said.  Poll closed.

The Fine Print

*Unless Nexia makes really cool, super-strong, super-light backpacking gadgets that lighten my load.  In that case.  I'm all for it!

**Bear in mind that the only translating experience I have is a few years of high school Spanish and a few months of Patagonian charades with my field assistant, Igor, from Santiago.  So if I were a Babel Fish, you should definitely not cram me into your ear canal.  Gregarious mistakes should be expected in any translational work from me.  I'm sure that a genetic engineer is going to correct me on my "recombinant" definition, an arachnologist will "tsk" me for the dragline flub.

***I know they're not insects.  I'm just raising the cackles of the arachnological community.   Nice cackles ya'll!


  1. I'm not even putting a poll widget on this one. Chicken! I think it's cool beans. I'm not afraid of genetic engineering. I seriously considered becoming a genetic engineer. I hope your frightened, mwa-ha-ha-ha!

    Also, goats are actually very picky eaters but they will eat anything you hold out to them. And shoelaces. We used to raise goats. Also, did you know their pupils, instead of shrinking to smaller circular pupils, become rectangular?

  2. I'm really not a Ludite. But if there's not a red flag being raised for you about BioSteel, how about a red cape? Red hand towel? Red napkin? Red piece of dryer lint???? Because it is not just a spidergoat, but a spider goat that's been engineered to be early lactating.

    At least give the goat some time at least to have a childhood before it's forced into slinging milk webs.

    This, like many of my posts, are to a degree tongue in cheek. I'm not going to go boycott Nexia or anything because, the fact is, if they do make light-strong backpacking goods, then I'd probably be all over it.

    Also, I wanted to be a genetic engineer when I entered college. Then took my first o-chem class and decided that goat technology was not in the cards for me after all.

  3. AnonymousJuly 23, 2009

    It's not *that* creepy. The goats are only 1/70,000th spider. The embryos are embellished with *one* gene that produces the necessary protein to make the silk. It's actually quite natural; that's the beauty and simplicity of it. The complicated part is recreating the weaving process once they've separated the protein from the milk.

  4. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    I think the BioSteel project has been abandoned. They dissipated $ 70 millions of investors cash, and there are probably no more that a dozen transgenic goats still alive in a farm in Ontario. Check the news on their site.


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