Tissue Culture Research Comes Up with 'Living Leather'

Cape Times (South Africa), October 2, 2007 | Go to article overview

Tissue Culture Research Comes Up with 'Living Leather'


In one of the more bizarre unions of art and science, Oron Catts and his team at the Tissue Culture and Art Project (TC&A) have created the victimless leather jacket from a living layer of tissue grown in a stitchless coat shape.

It is just 5cm high, but this "semi-living" fashion item raises all sorts of questions in the debate of the ethics of tissue culture.

The TC&A was set up to explore the use of tissue technologies as a medium for artistic expression, and the team see their work in a cultural context, not a commercial one.

SymbioticA: The Art and Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at the University of Western Australia, is the first research laboratory of its kind, in that it enables artists to engage in scientific research and development projects.

The tissue used for the coat is formed by 3T3 mouse cells and human bone cells. The 3T3 cells come from what are known as immortalised cell-lines; cells that can multiply indefinitely after being removed from the animal - in effect, a renewable resource.

3T3 cells are extremely common in scientific research. At present, all the 3T3 cells in the world could be weighed in tens of tons, though they all came from one original mouse in the 1970s.

This semi-living material is supported by a biodegradable polymer scaffold fashioned in the desired shape (in this case a miniature coat shape). …

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