Could lab-grown plants offset agriculture’s environmental footprint?

Researchers at MIT have developed a new method for growing plant tissues in a lab — sort of like how companies and researchers are approaching lab-grown meat. The process would be able to produce wood and fiber in a lab environment, and researchers have already demonstrated how it works in concept by growing simple structures using cells harvested from zinnia leaves.

If the work of these researchers can eventually be used to create a way to produce lab-grown wood for use in construction and fabrication in a way that’s scalable and efficient, then there’s tremendous potential in terms of reducing the impact on forestry globally. Eventually, the team even theorizes you could coax the growth of plant-based materials into specific target shapes, so you could also do some of the manufacturing in the lab, by growing a wood table directly for instance.

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Lab-grown meat is still in its infancy, and lab-grown plant material is even more nascent. But it has tremendous potential, even if it takes a long time to get there.

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