At the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a rather macabre exhibit has been on display. Entitled ‘Victimless Leather’, it’s a miniature ‘leather’ jacket made from living mouse stem cells growing on a polymer matrix.
As art, one interpretation could be that it shows how artifacts currently made from dead animal bits can instead be grown from tissue cultures; another might be that it illustrates the incredibly weird implications of modern biology.
Unfortunately, given unlimited nutrients and a lack of other constraints, tissue cultures have a tendency to keep on growing, which this one did. After a week or two, it clogged several of its nutrient feeds, making it necessary that it be put down. “I felt cruel when I turned it off,” said Paola Antonelli, the senior curator responsible for killing it.
There’s been a lot of coverage of this; here’s a few articles:
A related issue is ‘test tube meat’ – meat grown from cell cultures in a laboratory. Intriguingly, PETA, a sometimes radical animal rights group, have stumped up a $1,000,000 reward for its development.. Clearly this is because this approach would alleviate the suffering of a great many farm animals. It may well also reduce the environmental burden caused by industrial scale animal husbandry.
I find both of these items really intriguing, as it brings up many interesting questions. If you’re game, please leave a comment with your answers to these questions..
(x-posted to LJ)