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While the picture above may look like the mask from the 'Phantom of the Opera' it is actually human skin - one that is so strong, that it can ricochet bullets and turn any ordinary soul into superman - sans the fancy attire!
Oddly enough, this super human skin that has been imaginatively named '2.6g 329m/s' (the weight and the velocity of a .22 caliber long rifle bullet), is not the brainchild of a scientist, but of Dutch artist Jalila Essaidi, who wanted to prove that something like this could actually be done. However, while the 'big idea' was all hers, it did take a team of brilliant scientists to make it possible.
Ms. Essaidi's quest began with Randy Lewis, a professor of molecular biology at University of Wyoming, who has genetically modified ordinary goats to produce milk that contains the same proteins as spider silk.
When the protein from the milk is extracted and weaved, it results in a material that is ten times stronger than steel. While Randy's focus is to invent stronger materials, he was intrigued by Jalila's idea and agreed to part with some of his limited supply of 'spider' silk.
The enterprising artist than contacted scientists from Leiden's Department of Dermatology and the Netherlands Forensics Institute to get some help in integrating this tougher than steel material into the keratin of the human skin - a process that took about five weeks. The resulting skin was sandwich like - with the spider silk meshed in between the dermis and epidermis.
Once ready, the artist decided to put it to test and, she was not disappointed. While the toughened skin did not work when the bullet was fired at normal speed, it was able to withstand the impact, if the speed of the bullet was reduced slightly.
Unfortunately, growing bulletproof skin on our body is likely to be only a dream for now. However, in case you are interested, Jalila's masterpiece is on display until January 2012, as part of the 'Designers & Artists 4 Genomics' exhibition at the Naturalis Museum of Leidn.
Resources: DW-world-de, technews.daily.com