The fashion industry is being revolutionized as scientists have achieved the world’s first in vitro hair follicle inseparably linked to collagen in order to cultivate cell-based fur and wool.
Startup Furoid’s team has developed a system in which multiple single stem cells are brought together in the right conditions to spontaneously grow into a three-dimensional miniature tissue, which in this case would be a fur or wool follicle.
Maria Zakurnaeva, CEO of Furoid, pointed out that although many brands and countries are turning away from fur, and experiencing pressure from the public and animal rights groups; “Fur is the epitome of luxury, so there will always be people who want to show their status to the outside world.”
Aside from luxury, fur has a high thermal performance. Where temperatures drop as low as 50 below zero, furs and skins are the go-to, as down jackets are not warm enough and are made of petroleum-based plastics and down, which are neither sustainable nor cruelty-free.
Professor Sue Gibbs, Chief Scientific Director of the Free University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and her team have previously grown human hair follicles in the lab. Now, they have further developed this process to enable the growing of animal furs and skins in the lab. The results have already been successfully replicated in vitro. The team of researchers say the technology is still in its infancy but the sector could one day receive the same type of investment seen in the cell-based meat industry.
Furoid focuses on endangered and commercial species. They are building their own stem cell database from induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells.
According to Innovation Origins, “The startup works with blockchain technology and DNA tagging to ensure a secure record for the biotech-produced furs. Each fur from the lab is tagged with a unique pre-coded genetic signature combination. This allows it to be easily distinguished from products from farmed fur animals or poachers. The technology is unique in that it eliminates the need for the conventional process of tanning and dyeing because these characteristics can be engineered at the cellular level. This makes furs from the lab even more environmentally friendly. Not only does the breeding of fur animals become obsolete, it also eliminates a production process that could pollute the environment with high water consumption and possible contaminants.”