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Protein engineering yields animal-free leather

By Mary Page Bailey |

A new fermentation-based technology aims to create leather materials from yeast rather than animal skin. Developed by Modern Meadow (Nutley, N.J.; www.modernmeadow.com), the process feeds sugar feedstock to yeast cells that have been engineered to create collagen. Some additional enzymes are required during fermentation to facilitate the yeast’s production of collagen. The collagen is then purified and assembled to create the bio-leather material known as Zoa. Zoa bioleather materials[/caption] Not only is the production time for Zoa significantly lower than for animal-based leather, the material is also very customizable for shape, size, texture and other properties, explains Dave Williamson, Modern Meadow’s chief technology officer. He likens the process to the activities of a fibroblast cell — assembling collagen proteins into collagen fibers in human and animal tissue — taking place in large-scale process vessels. Zoa is biologically similar to traditional leather, but it also enables functionality that is not possible with traditional leather, including the ability to be poured or sprayed in a liquid form, and the potential for integration with other fibrous media to make composite materials. “We can change or introduce…
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