Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr at the Tissue Culture & Art Project are attempting to grow a semi-living jacket in an effort to create “victimless leather.”

Hoping to highlight the possibility of wearing leather without killing an animal, the duo is presently focused on growing living tissue into a leather-like material and having it mature in the form of a miniature, stitchless, coat-like shape.

“It started from our research into living surfaces,” said Catts. “In a sense we wanted to ask: How are we going to perceive something which from the outside seems to be alive but which is something you recognize as inanimate?”

Grown using a combination of mouse and human cells, the jacket is currently quite tiny (about 2 inches high and 1.4 inches wide) and would just fit a mouse. Using a biodegradable polymer as a base, the team coated it with 3T3 mouse cells to form connective tissue and topped it up with human bone cells in the hope of creating a stronger layer of skin. The jacket is being grown inside a specially designed bioreactor that acts as a surrogate body. The group hopes that once the polymer degrades, a whole jacket that maintains its shape and integrity will be left behind.

The group’s members plan to grow a larger jacket as part of developing what they term the “technoscientific body” — an artificial environment where semi-living entities are grown and cared for with the ultimate aim of creating a victimless utopia. And the stress here is on the “victimless.” Cells used in the project so far have come from so-called immortalized cell lines, or cells that divide and multiply forever once they are removed from an animal or human host, essentially forming a renewable resource.

More here.