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Grow Wood Without Trees

Can "natural" substances and fibers be artificially created in the lab? An MIT team has proposed a way to grow certain plant tissues in the lab - like just wood without the whole tree.


(Zinnia-based material grows in a tree-shaped bioprinted structure)

The researchers, in Luis Fernando Velásquez-García’s group at the Micro­systems Technology Laboratories, grew wood-like plant tissue indoors, without soil or sunlight. They started with a zinnia, extracting live cells from its leaves and culturing them in a liquid growth medium so they would metabolize and proliferate.

Next, they transferred the cells into a gel and “tuned” them, explains Velásquez-García: “Plant cells are similar to stem cells in the sense that they can become anything if they are induced to.” ...The gel itself acted as a scaffold to encourage the cells to grow in a particular shape...

“If you want a table, then you should just grow a table.”

Very soon now we're going to need what science fiction writers Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth created for us - a new term! Yes, we'll need to distinguish tree-grown wood as they do in their 1952 novel Gravy Planet:

The room wasn't big, it wasn't small: say ten by twelve. But it was cool, well-lighted and most imposingly furnished. The air recirculators were cleverly hidden behind animated friezes; the carpeting was thick and soft; and every piece of furniture was constructed from top to bottom of authentic, expertized, genuine tree-grown wood.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/19/2021)

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