KeraSynth is an ongoing collaboration by Diana Eusebio, Erin Kirchner, Grace Kwon, Sydney Sieh-Takata, and Rachel Rusk made in response to the Biodesign Challenge(BDC) Animal-Free Wool Prize. KeraSynth is a synthetic, bio-material inspired by wool's complex protein and fiber structure. To grow wool without the sheep, we utilize tissue engineering to grow wool Hair Follicle Germ (HFG) cells on microfluidic devices designed to provide the cells with nutrients and remove waste. The subsequent wool can then be harvested and processed or remain on the microfluidic device. Our approach could expand outside of sheep wool and apply to other keratin-based structures such as fur and feathers. Growing colored, keratin-based fibers of different grades could also occur and be produced without the risk and expense of growing and modifying an entire organism.
Another component of our project is proposing ways for tissue engineering to become a more accessible technology. To realize this goal, we created the speculative company DermaWool that would develop and patent this method of production before licensing other companies to use their technology. Less-privileged communities would gain access through community centers and school programs. By democratizing the knowledge used in creating KeraSynth, we hope to provide a material solution that addresses human consumer needs and protects animal welfare while being inclusive in its production.
Teams participating in the BDC participate in a two-day symposium at the MoMA as well as an exhibition at a NY-based design school. KeraSynth was chosen to be one of three finalists for the BDC Animal-Free Wool Prize as well as one of eight finalists for the overall BDC. As a result, our 20 minute presentation at the MoMA was recorded. You can watch our presentation explaining the project in detail here. The following images and video are documentation of our project from the exhibition at the Parsons School of Design, titled Nature/PostNature Student Projects from the Biodesign Challenge.
Video explaining how KeraSynth will manifest itself from 2020-2065
Shot of KeraSynth's exhibition set up
Overall images and detail image of a fur collar coat that demonstrates how the PDMS microfluidic system(pale teal) and PDMS cast depositories to host the hair follicle germs(light pink) would work together to grow fur
Overall shot of images that convey different parts of KeraSynth
Title banner for exhibition
Image of wool growing in a lab on a microfluidic chip, Microfluidic chip courtesy of Mika Rosenberg
Diagram of collar design's microfluidic system
Diagram of KeraSynth's life cycle
Picture of artifacts from 2050-2060
Overall shots and detail image of CNC-routed acrylic and casted silicone used to make the PDMS casts of the microfluidic collar design featured on coat
Detail shots of prototypes that were done before fur collar was cast
Close up of magazine covers featured in KeraSynth video
Overall and detail image of dress designed to demonstrate how KeraSynth would allow us to grow fur of different color, texture, and lengths on the same garment