Growing wood … in a lab?

Wood, as I hope most of us are aware, comes from our friends known as trees. It’s an increibly multi-purpose material and can be used for a variety of purposes, as we have seen evidence of throughout historical periods as well as current ones.

Trees occur in nature. And wood is derived from trees. But wood grown in a lab? That’s a new one.

This rather interesting news comes from an article via The Good News Network, courtesy of the work of several scientists at MIT.

The scientists’ aim is to “(cultivate) cells to divide and multiply into forms outside of their parent phylum, and the proof-of-concept study is a powerful first step towards finding alternatives to forestry,” the article expains.

“According to Velásquez-García and team, using a leaf from a zinnia, they were able to grow plant like tissues selectively, free from unnecessary organs. The researchers described in their corresponding paper how plant cells respond well to ‘tunability,’ and that the scalable, land-free cultivation of plant material like wood for use in furniture making, for example, is very possible—and even easier than  what other scientists are doing with cell-cultured meat, the correct jargon for ‘lab-grown meat.’

“The strategy for cell-cultured trees, grown in the shape of a table or a rectangular board, is easier to scale, and could become cost-effective much faster than cell-cultured meat—as plants are simply easier to grow in this way,” says the article.

As for what exactly this technology could achieve if proven to be successful?

“What if instead you could spend that 20 years growing only furniture or clothing applicable fibers and shapes? Well the scientists haven’t yet grown a table from a petri dish, but their work is an important proof-of-concept that if widely adopted could lead to huge reductions in CO2 emissions from a number of sources.

“These could include fueling and driving heavy, low-range cargo trucks up logging roads at low speeds, as well as fueling and manufacturing the vehicles to construct the logging roads, and the manufacturing plants that make both, as well as the vehicles to transport that equipment there.

“Then one must think of deforestation, a major contributor of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, as carbon that would otherwise be released through the Earth’s 1,000-year carbon cycle naturally is ripped from the ground as the trees are felled. Tree plantations could be left to age more naturally, retuning more of the carbon cycle into a natural state while attracting more wildlife in return,” the article states.

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