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News Clippings

Wednesday 8 November 2000 (Daily Telegraph)

China implants spider genes into silkworms
By David Rennie in Beijing

THE centuries-old silk industry faces a revolution after Chinese genetic engineers said yesterday that they had successfully implanted spider genes into silkworms.
Mass-produced spider-strength silk could be used in bullet-proof jackets and parachutes as well as for ordinary clothes, scientists in Shanghai said. Dr Lu Changde, of the Chinese Academy of Science's Shanghai Institute for Biochemistry, said his team had succeeded in producing silk containing spider genes after four years' work, though the resulting silk still required fine tuning.

He said: "We have successfully implanted the gene that makes spider silk viscous into the fertilised eggs of silkworms. There are still many difficulties to overcome, but we have solved the most difficult problem." The scientists still have to prevent the silk from turning yellow and to make it strong yet soft enough to wear.

Teams elsewhere in China - which has embraced genetic engineering with enthusiasm and few restrictions - last year boasted that they had placed rabbit genes in cotton plants, producing cotton fibres "as soft as rabbit hair".

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