If you could grow living tissue at home, what would you cook up? That's the question animating Spiderwort, a new company that has developed a simple but powerful CO2 incubator, specifically designed to allow researchers, citizen scientists and biohackers to easily and affordably cultivate new body parts from scratch. The open-source incubator, which is due out in 2017 and expected to sell for around $500 Canadian ($370 US at the current exchange rate), was on display at the Biofabrciate conference for biological designers in New York City.
Through a similar process, Spiderwort's co-founder Andrew Pelling, a scientist and Canada Research Chair at the University of Ottawa, was able to grow human ears out of apple slices. Yes, you read that correctly. By using a solution to remove all the apple's own cells from the slice, leaving behind only a protein scaffolding, Pelling and his collaborators were able to successfully grow living human cells in their place.
Pelling has yet to implant the ear to see if it functions correctly, but his hope is that other scientists will take inspiration from his success at using plant matter scaffolding in place of petroleum, animal products or surgical procedures—which are the current go-to materials for implantable body parts. And the Spiderwort CO2 incubator is designed to help them get started.
Watch our interview with Pelling about Spiderwort and the future of synthetic body parts and be prepared to see your fruits and vegetables in a whole new light.
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