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First lab-grown leather book cover is made with jellyfish collagen

You don’t see a whole lot of leather bound books nowadays, but they definitely have a luxury feel. While many people like the look, feel and even smell of leather, it has several problems. One solution to these problems is to use lab-grown leather instead of the real thing. The company Geltor, which makes collagen for cosmetics from yeast cells, created the very first lab-grown leather book cover, made with jellyfish collagen, for the book Clean Meat by Paul Shapiro.

Raising stock generates a lot of CO2, and an animal has to die before its hide can be used. Not to mention the fact that cows aren’t square or car seat-shaped, which means there is always material waste in making products. Lab-grown leather offers a solution to all these problems.

Collagen is a protein in animals that exists between cells and can be turned into gelatin for the food industry. Leather is mostly made of collagen. Geltor created the cultured leather by engineering yeast cells to produce different types of collagen during fermentation. The collagen is separated from the cells and combined. As the material is liquid at first, it can take any desired shape. After curing, the material is shaped in floppy, pallid sheets, which are tanned and finished into the bioleather, which looks and feels like the real thing.

Rather than using cow or pig collagen, which would seem like the more logical choice, the company used jellyfish collagen instead. Different types of collagen provide different types of characteristics for the leather material. Jellyfish collagen is both flexible and firm, like bovine leather. Geltor even acquired collagen from mastodons, whose protein sequences came from scientific analysis of long-frozen mastodons, so perhaps we can expect a mastodon lab-grown leather next.

The book Clean Meat is an excellent medium to show of lab-grown leather first, as it talks about lab-grown meat. The only leather-bound copy was donated to the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit promoting plant-based and cellular agriculture alternatives to industrial animal agriculture, which sold it on Ebay for a whopping $12,790 (€10,273.57).

For more animal-free leather, click here.

Photos: Good Food Institute / Eric Day

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