USTAR at Utah State University was designed, in part, to foster collaboration between USTAR faculty and core university faculty to build on established university research areas of strength.
Two USTAR teams, represented by Randy Lewis, of the Synthetic BioManufacturing Institute, and Irina Polejaeva, of Veterinary Diagnostics and Infectious Diseases, worked together to design the goats using genomics technology. Both sets of twin were created with different proof of concept milestones in mind.
Lewis, a member of the Synthetic BioManufacturing Institute at USU, uses transgenic goats to produce milk with spider silk proteins. The proteins are purified and spun into fibers that can be used to create technical fabrics as well as artificial ligaments and tendons. Stronger than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, Lewis’s spider silk has been used to craft a bullet resistant skin and can be used to create a next generation solution for parachute cords.
Lewis selected his best spider silk milk producer, Daisy, gave her skin cells to the VDID team and ask them to create the first set of cloned spider goat twins born at Utah State University. “Because we need large quantities of milk to get large quantities of silk, it makes sense to copy our best producer,” said Lewis."
Polejaeva, a member of the Veterinary Diagnostics and Infectious Diseases USTAR team at USU, is a cloning pioneer. In 2000 as a project manager at PPL Therapeutics, she and her team of scientists cloned the world’s first pig. Now working with goats – as goats that have been extensively used in Atrial fibrillation research — Polejaeva intends to model and answer questions regarding the nature and progression of the disease.
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, “Atrial fibrillation affects millions of people, and the numbers are rising. Men are more likely than women to have the condition. … The risk of AF increases as you age. … However, about half of the people who have AF are younger than 75.”
“Our goal is to have a better understanding of the mechanisms of this disease so that effective treatments for humans can be developed,” said Polejaeva. “The A-fib project is part of USU’s and the University of Utah’s USTAR collaboration efforts. This collaboration, with Lewis, moves us along in our collaboration with the University of Utah via the Utah Multidisciplinary Arrhythmia Consortium.”
“Through collaborative efforts, both teams have been able to advance their science and achieve milestones more quickly than either team had originally planned,” said Robert T. Behunin, Vice President for Commercialization and Regional Development at Utah State University. “The USTAR program at USU focuses on USU’s strength in life sciences. Our core of existing faculty and recent USTAR researchers make projects like this possible.”