In 2016 over 300,000 tons of clothing were thrown into landfill in the UK alone (Smithers, 2017). The reasons why people throw out their clothes are many, from them being too small or damaged, to the colours fading. These issues could potentially be rectified if the clothes could repair, easily change shape, and have colours which do not fade. I believe the best way to achieve this is by creating living clothes.
To achieve such a thing, I believe a fungi or moss could be used, but it must be able to grow in a controlled and directed manner. This could potentially be done by using a fungal species which has a gene needed for proliferation to be knocked-out, but still be viable, such as profilin (Ueno, et al., 2010). Then, this gene can be fused with a secretory tag, and placed under the control of an inducible promoter (Diener, et al., 2004). By doing this, it should be possible for one cell to be able to encourage proliferation of other cells nearby, as long as the expression can be induced in a useful manner.
One suggestion for a way to induce expression of this gene is by the cell interacting with a scaffold, which will determine the clothes shapes and provide structural support. This could be achieved by covering the surface of the scaffold with proteins that can interact with a cell surface protein. To do this, the scaffold could be covered with extra cellular matrix proteins, and the cell could expression Extracellular matrix binding protein (Embp). Binding of Embp with extracellular matrix proteins, such as fibronectin, induces a signalling pathway that can activate expression of certain genes (Christner, et al., 2010).
In order to make these clothes easily size adjustable, I believe it is best for the Scaffold to consist of easy to add / remove ‘bricks’, with hexagonal, pentagonal, and triangular shapes. Finally, the clothes must not be ridged, so the scaffolding must be flexible, and potentially hollow. The figures below show the current idea of how such a self-repairing outline could work.
Figure 1:Diagram illustrating the fungal cells growing over a newly added scaffold part
Figure 2: Diagram illustrating how the expression of Profilin can be induced. The Scaffold (green) is covered with the extracellular matrix protein fibronectin (red), which is recognised by Extracellular matrix binding protein (Embp) (blue), inducing signal transduction where profiling is expressed and the cell grows and proliferates.
Christner, M. et al., 2010. The giant extracellular matrix-binding protein of Staphylococcus epidermidis mediates biofilm accumulation and attachment to fibronectin.. Molecular Microbiology, 75(1), pp. 187-207.
Diener, S. et al., 2004. Characterization of the protein processing and secretion pathways in a comprehensive set of expressed sequence tags from Trichoderma reesei. FEMS Microbiology, Volume 230, pp. 275-282.
Smithers, R., 2017. UK households binned 300,000 tonnes of clothing in 2016, s.l.: The Guardian.
Ueno, K., Tamura, Y. & Chibana, H., 2010. Target validation and ligand development for a pathogenic fungal profilin, using a knock-down strain of pathogenic yeast Candida glabrata and structure-based ligand design. Yeast, 27(7), pp. 369-378.