Former porn star Jenna Jameson's "Pleather Yourself" photo shoot was a provocative, anti-leather component of PETA's NSFW initiative last summer. However, the animal rights group might not have to resort to such gimmicky tactics in the future, now that laboratory leather is on the horizon.
Modern Meadow is a company that is developing new approaches to meat and leather production. In August, Breakout Labs, a branch of PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel's foundation, awarded the company a grant to bioprint meat and leather.
"Our emphasis first is not on meat, it's on leather," cofounder and CEO Andras Forgacs told Txchnologist. "The main reason is that, technically, skin is a simpler structure
than meat, making it easier to produce."
Though still in the development stage, Modern Meadow envisions doing so by first extracting, isolating and even genetically modifying cells from live animals. Next, cells would be proliferated in a bioreactor and lumped together to create aggregated spheres of cells. The aggregates would then be put together in layers, allowing them to fuse together, potentially by way of 3-D printing.
Then the bioassembled cells would be put into a bioreactor and given time to mature.
"We create the embryonic precursor and, in the bioreactor, apply
physical cues to let nature take over," Forgacs said. "This stimulates
collagen production in the case of the cells that will become leather
and muscle growth in what will become meat."
Finally, after several weeks of cells being deprived of food, skin tissue turns to hide while the muscle and fat tissue are harvested for food. Being that the hides are hairless and don't have a tough outer skin, the tanning process is condensed, thus decreasing the amount of toxic chemicals needed for the operation.
"Nothing we're doing requires a scientific leap of
faith," Forgacs said. "There's no science we're using that we're not
confident with. This isn't about scientific risks, it's about