Have trouble settling for "pleather" but can't stand the idea of slaughtering animals? Thanks to biological engineering, you may have a new option soon: leather produced in vitro. It was announced this week that Modern Meadow may begin product of engineered leather as early as 2017. The company, which is a recipient a grant from early Paypal investor Peter Thiel, has been working on a fundamentally new approach to leather production that is based on the latest advances in tissue engineering and causes no harm to animals. Co-founders Gabor and Andras Forgacs respectively invented and helped commercialize bioprinting, a technology that builds tissues and organ structures based on the computer-controlled delivery of cells in three dimensions. They previously co-founded Organovo, a San Diego-based regenerative medicine company which applies bioprinting to a range of medical applications, including drug discovery, drug testing and ultimately transplant tissues.
Why leather and not meat?
The team is also interested in the production of in-vitro meat, but the Forgacs explained to Scientific American this week that their "emphasis first is not on meat, it's on leather. The main reason is that, technically, skin is a simpler structure than meat, making it easier to produce." Frankly speaking, it's probably also a little less creepy to most people as well - test-tube shoes somehow seems a bit more appealing than a test-tube burger. Read the full Scientific American piece here, which explains the process by which leather will be made. One of the processes potentially involved is 3D bioprinting. You can check out a YouTube video here to hear one of the Modern Meadows founders speaking about 3D bioprinting in 3d bioprinting video, modern meadow, video above.