Shamees Aden, a London-born researcher and multidisciplinary designer, works to explore ways new scientific methods and technologies will drive the designs of the future.
Her latest musing, what she calls a "self-healing shoe," would be 3D printed to fit a consumer's foot using living tissue.
Call them Endosymbiotic Trainers and expect them in a store near you – within the next thirty years.
Aden's Protocell Shoe was part of an exhibit called Wearable Futures held in London. With the advent of bio-inks and printing techniques, Aden has envisioned a time when protocells, minute structures made from something like living material, could be cultured to mimic living cells and their properties and then put to use in various products.
While Protocells are synthetic, they do have lifelike qualities which Aden says might one day be 3D printed in such a way that they could inflate after sensing pressure, conform to the sole of the foot, and work to cushion various points of contact with the ground beneath them.
A pared down and simplistic version of a cell, a protocell is capable of growth, replication, and even evolution. Although a working version of a protocell is still a pipe dream of sorts, those in the know say the structures are well within reach of current understanding.
"As you're running on different ground and textures it's able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner," Aden said of her design.
Aden says when the shoes are removed, the protocell material might become "dormant" until it is needed again and then reanimated by dipping into protocell soup to let them "heal" any damaged areas.
As synthetic biology begins to breach the wall between the non-living and the living, it becomes more and more likely that inert liquids and chemical concoctions manufactured artificially in the laboratory will result in a sort of new Eden.
And Aden is serious enough about her vision to be working with maverick biologist Dr. Martin M. Hanczyc to propose possible uses and product concepts for the science.
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