While most of us think of animals as pets or for food purposes, they serve many other purposes in human life and are imperative to many aspects of society as a result. Many animals are used to make cheese, or leather products; some are used to plow fields and for working purposes, and people are using service dogs for many different types of disabilities. As an example from my own life, for the last handful of years, I have worked on an Angora goat on an alpaca farm. The farm’s owner also owns an art gallery, and he has many different artists that make various arts and crafts. As a result, these goats are used for their fur, called mohair, which is then incorporated into many of the products sold at the gallery.
What I’m trying to get at is that animals are amazing and their potential is limitless. For instance, my friends and I had to write a paper on something we find interesting about sheep and goats. The topic we chose was spider goats – goats used to produce a special silk protein in their milk. The idea sounds very odd, but it is a very creative way to use animals to help improve human lives.
How does this work? A few scientists have taken a silk-producing gene out of the golden orb spider and implanted it into the DNA sequence of goat embryos. Afterward, the embryo is placed in a surrogate mother and carried to term. By further breeding, it is possible that their babies might carry the gene. At 18 months of age, these transgenic goats start lactating, and the spider silk proteins are put into the milk. Through various extraction techniques, the fat is skimmed off the milk and the silk proteins are removed.
What is the purpose of getting these silk proteins? Scientists have known for a while that spider silk is a very strong yet flexible material that could potentially be implemented into artificial ligaments, tendons, wound repair, or suture materials, and it could have big implications in terms of mechanical engineering. The reason why goats are used is that they are much more efficient at producing the silk compared to the spiders due to the spiders’ tiny size. Thus the amount of manpower, time, and effort required is much less. Things like these spider goats amaze me, and it only proves how important animals really are.