Thursday, 16 February 2012

Genetic Engineering...

...And Its Impact On The Textiles Industry.

Within genetic engineering there have been innovative adaptations made to goats, specifically, in order to harvest different fibres that otherwise would not exist. For instance the silk produced by the Orb Weaver Spider comes in 6 different types of consistency; however, one type of silk is found to be stronger than Kevlar and is bio compatible. As this silk is a protein fibre the spider genes can be implanted within a mammal (in a specific case, a goat) and the protein fibre can be laced within the milk. Genetic engineering  is the only method to obtain spider silk due to the highly cannibal nature of the spiders, thus making it impossible to farm them. In order to produce a fibre from the proteins in the 'Spider-Goat's' milk, the proteins must be purified and then extruded through a solution. This is then wound onto a spinneret. This biotechnology has impacted the biomedical textiles industry regarding the production of tendon and ligament repair. 

However, there are financial and ethical implications behind genetic engineering as well as the production of tendon and ligament repairs within biotechnology. Some may argue that it is unethical to combine the DNA of a goat and spider in genetic engineering, although with beneficial consequences on the bio compatibility of medical components. One may argue that, with no physical harm issued to the animal itself, genetic engineering has already revolutionised fibre production technology and has the potential to do so further. A potential that could impact particular uses of medical textiles and the objections of usage on patients. Which therefore crosses onto the financial elements such as the cost of production. When objections arise against usage of these genetically modified textile components, production becomes indebted. 

Another case in relation to biotechnology is the computer-aided method of bio-brickeing. At Cambridge University scientists have researched the properties of squid genetics, in particular the 'Reflectin' protein which allows the squid to camouflage itself into its surroundings. This protein can be issued as a 'bio-brick' (as part of a variety of genetic components) and inserted into a circuit which can then be used to produce anything biological that requires a camouflaging property. By spinning this protein onto a piece of silicone, the 'Reflectin' is tested by fogging the silicone behind it. This protein could be used as a coating for a fibre to then produce a type of 'invisibility fibre' with the prospect of military use. 

Other genetic engineering possibilities could be to engineer 'naturally' coloured Cotton of Flax in order to 'naturally' produce a variety of colours in plantation fibres. Thus decreasing chemical usage in dyeing fabric as well as the amount of Eutrophication, not to mention the dramatic financial expense within fibre treatments. For decades we have used a form of 'natural selection' and special breeding in order to produce better beef or finer sheep's wool. Genetic engineering subtracts the years within such a process and catalyses the manufacturing of finer produce.
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