Breakthrough for Australian Researchers Working To Grow "future" Cotton
July 22, 2020

CSIRO cotton scientists in Canberra have made a breakthrough in their project to develop strains of cotton that have new properties grown inside the plant itself. While it’s very early days, the team’s breakthrough came when they successfully showed that colours such as reds, yellows and purples can be successfully expressed in tobacco leaf and cotton cultures in the lab.

According to CSIRO researchers Dr Colleen MacMillan, Dr Filomena Pettolino, and Dr Viv Rolland having the cotton plant produce its own fibres with properties without additional chemical treatment could be a game changer.

“Dr Madeline Mitchell and the team have shown in the laboratory that tissue culture is producing calli that are coloured through the plant having DNA that is telling those tiny cells to produce these coloured pigments – that is pretty remarkable,” Dr MacMillan said.

Dr Pettolino says that so far the team has seen bright yellows and oranges, all the way through to some deep purples.

“It was definitely one of those rare eureka moments scientists have. To actually see the colours coming through in the leaf of the tobacco plant was incredibly exciting because now the team knows it’s possible”.

The team, supported by the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform, is hopeful that this could mitigate the need for potentially harmful dyes, and be a breakthrough solution for fashion brands wishing to move to circular business models that reduce impact on the natural environment.

Not only that, the team also has its sights set on wrinkle free and stretchy cotton varieties that contain these fibres in the plant itself, which could elevate cotton against its synthetic fibre competitors. The team is about to welcome a new Research Scientist to the project for the next two years, Dr Xiaoqing Li – exciting times ahead!!!

The ABC Landline Program in Australia ran an exclusive story on this exciting cotton program which is compelling viewing. The story also includes an interview with The Very Good Bra’s Stephanie Devine, who has developed the world’s first compostable bra and who has become a big supporter of the work of Cotton Australia.

To watch, please click here.

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