US startup releases lab-grown leather

US startup releases lab-grown leather

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Five years in development, Modern Meadow recently debuted its lab-grown animal-free leather materials at the ‘Items: Is Fashion Modern?’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York – which runs until January 28th 2018.

The technology behind the ZOA leather material is based around DNA editing, as the biological component of leather isn’t actually animal skin but rather the protein collagen. Modern Meadow took the base strands of a DNA molecule’s double helix and replaced certain sequences to customize cells to then behave in a certain way. That enabled them to 3D print the customized cells into a shape that is adaptable, and able to grow and develop.

The global leather industry is worth over USD 100 billion a year, but the traditional method of slaughtering cattle for its skin is environmentally damaging. Modern Meadow’s leather material could be mass produced, can be thinner than traditional leather but with no reduction in strength, and is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. “Our technology enables designers to explore materials in exciting new ways, enabling never-seen-before functionality, aesthetics and performance possibilities,” commented Modern Meadow’s Chief Creative Officer, Suzanne Lee.

Modern Meadow have been working on animal-friendly alternatives for some years now, including even attempting to replicate hamburger meat artificially. Another company that has successfully biofabricated animal products is Pembient, who were able to 3D print rhino horns through advanced biotechnology to deter poachers. What other materials could be generated in the lab to make widely used products more sustainable?


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Spotted by Krishma Nayee, written by Springwise.
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