Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Inc., the biotech company currently using genetic modification of silkworms in an effort to produce spider silk, is playing a leading edge role in one of today’s major scientific endeavors. The use of genetic engineering to modify life forms for the production of unique proteins promises to change the world of materials and research, allowing us to effectively customize what we work with. Though Kraig Biocraft has gained much exposure for its progress in the pursuit of spider silk, it is increasingly being recognized for its developments in the implementation of genetic engineering.

Proteins are a key element of living things, and can come in an almost endless variety, each having a unique set of properties that can be used in research, pharmaceuticals, and materials. But specific proteins can be very difficult to come by, especially in the volumes required for different applications. Proteins are produced by genes, which provide the coded recipes for the various proteins. Most of the proteins scientists want occur in nature, but seldom in the quantities needed. Genetic engineering can help solve the supply problem.

By isolating and analyzing the genes that produce the desired proteins, scientists can identify the specific chemical formula of the genes, called gene sequencing, allowing them to replicate the genes. Knowing how to replicate a gene means you are no longer dependent upon nature as its source. However, in order to actually make and operate a functional gene, you still need a host organism. Bacteria are frequently used as genetic host organisms. Re-created genetic material from the original organism is introduced into the host organism, using advanced genetic engineering techniques, allowing the host organism to now produce the corresponding proteins, called protein expression.

It’s not an easy process. First of all, scientists don’t yet know all of the genetic codes available in nature. And, once known, it can be difficult to find an appropriate host and develop the sophisticated techniques required to introduce the genetic material into the host. Kraig Biocraft Laboratories is one of the companies in the forefront of this field. Utilizing the silkworm as the genetic host, and introducing isolated spider genes, the company is closing in on the economically viable production of spider silk, something that has never before been accomplished.

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