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Scientists Have Worked Out A Way To Grow Wood In A Lab Without Cutting Down A Single Tree

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Scientists Have Worked Out A Way To Grow Wood In A Lab Without Cutting Down A Single Tree

Scientists could be on the cusp of eliminating the need for deforestation.

A team of researchers at MIT has come up with a way of growing timber in a laboratory without having to cut down a single tree.

Their technique of creating the wood allows them to produce 'timber in any shape and size', according to Interesting Engineering.

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The news outlet says the team extracted stem cell-like cells from the leaves of a flowering plant called Common zinnia (Zinnia elegans).

After storing the cells in liquid for a few days, they treated it with a 'gel-based medium enriched with nutrients and hormones'.

Incredibly, they noticed that these stem cell-like cells started producing new plant cells.

Credit: incamerastock / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: incamerastock / Alamy Stock Photo
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They kept tinkering with the amount of the gel-based medium and found they could manipulate the physical and mechanical properties of these new cells.

Lead researcher Ashley Beckwith said in a statement the plant cells worked in a similar way to human stem cells.

“In the human body, you have hormones that determine how your cells develop and how certain traits emerge," she said.

"In the same way, by changing the hormone concentrations in the nutrient broth, the plant cells respond differently.

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"Just by manipulating these tiny chemical quantities, we can elicit pretty dramatic changes in terms of the physical outcomes."

Beckwith says the team used these new plant cells in a 3D printer and were able to incubate and grow timber.

If that already wasn't awesome enough, they discovered this technique can grow wood twice as fast as it does in nature.

It's hoped this new method will help reduce the amount of trees that get cut down every second on the planet, as well as the waste that goes on to transform the wood into a product.

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Beckwith said: "The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste."

Credit: Mint Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Mint Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

This could be an absolute game-changer for the planet.

There have been calls for years to limit the amount of deforestation that goes on and this could be the things that helps stop it.

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The wood-based product industry was valued at more than $600 billion last year and that number is expected to jump to $900 billion by 2026.

However, don't expect this new technology anytime soon as there's still a lot more to learn about growing timber in the lab before it's commercially viable.

Senior author and scientist Luis Fernando Velásquez-García said in a statement: “Though still in its early days, this research demonstrates that lab-grown plant materials can be tuned to have specific characteristics, which could someday enable researchers to grow wood products with the exact features needed for a particular application."

Featured Image Credit: .Stephen French / Alamy Stock Photo. David Burton / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, Technology

Stewart Perrie
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