Human Skin and Spider Silk Stop Bullets

We’ve known for a while that spider silk is incredibly strong – stronger than steel, and tougher than Kevlar (Wikipedia informs me that strength and toughness are not the same thing… roughly, spider silk’s tensile strength means it’s hard to pull apart until it breaks, its toughness means it’s hard to hit until it breaks). 

Now a Dutch artist came up with the idea of mixing human skin and spider silk, and shooting a bullet at it – what, that’s not a normal thing to think of? Check out a video demonstration here, and an article on it here.

So what happened? The artist and a cell biologist she somehow roped into this grew human skin in a lab, and grafted spider silk between the dermis and epidermis. The spider silk was from American genetically modified goats and worms, which is probably a story for another time. They shot bullets at it from a .22 caliber rifle; it did not survive a normal shot, but it did take one at “reduced speed”. 

This whole event was for art, not for any practical purpose, so there are no obvious future implications of its findings. It’s so crazy though and so evocative of the image of genetically modified bulletproof humans, that I just had to share it. 


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