Around the turn of this millennium, when everyone else was busy worrying about the Y2K bug, researchers at Nexia, a secretive biotechnology firm based in Montreal, had other, bigger critters on their minds. Goats, to be precise. Although they looked just like regular goats and were given cute names like Sugar and Spice, they were, in fact, extraordinary. They had been genetically modified with spider DNA, so that their milk contained silk proteins that could potentially be spun into thread softer than the finest Egyptian cotton, and stronger than Kevlar.

In the end, spider-goat silk never took off. Nexia went bust, the silk-making herd were sold off and, although research is ongoing, the odds on a comeback have never looked good. Dreams of groundbreaking new textiles, however, are still very much alive, and very necessary. Read More