Your Next Favorite Handbag Could be Made of Mushroom Leather

Bolt Threads
Bolt Threads

From the makers of imitation spider silk comes a new eco-friendly material: mushroom leather. Invented by Bolt Threads, the material is called Mylo—short for mycelium, the fungi filaments that are used to create the leather.

Not only does it look like real leather, but it feels like it too, according to the California-based company. For the past nine years, Bolt Threads has been using biotechnology to take materials found in nature and transform them into never-before-seen textiles. As the company prefers to put it: “Animal leather is so 1st century.”

Bolt Threads partnered with biomaterials company Ecovative to license the technology. Mycelium cells are grown in a lab, and different variables like temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels are controlled to create a large fibrous network that looks a lot like leather, Fast Company reports.

“We cut it into slices, and it goes through a process not dissimilar to how animal hides are tanned to become leather, except it’s more environmentally friendly,” Dan Widmaier, founder and CEO of Bolt Threads, explained.

By tweaking the growth process, they can change the strength, durability, and suppleness of the leather.

While mushroom leather might not sound like the most luxurious material, the company has found an unlikely ally in the fashion industry. English designer Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney, crafted a handbag out of Mylo that has been dubbed the Falabella Prototype One. It’s currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which is also showcasing bags that McCartney created for Paris Fashion Week using Microsilk, Bolt Threads’s imitation spider silk material. In an effort to reduce the consumption of real silk, which typically involves the killing of silkworms, McCartney even created a spider silk dress.

Mylo's introduction comes at a time when many haute couture labels are looking to market their products as sustainable. Gucci has been fur-free since last year and it also launched a line of sunglasses made from a biodegradable material. Across the industry, many other luxury labels have opted for alternate, eco-friendly materials. (Pineapple "leather" has been around for a couple of years now.)

Bolt Threads will also be releasing its own Mylo handbag, for which a limited-edition pre-sale will begin in June.

[h/t Fast Company]

Being Surrounded By Greenery Can Be Good for Your Heart

iStock.com/Givaga
iStock.com/Givaga

Living in a place with a little greenery is good for your health in more ways than one. Recent research has found that people perceive their health status as significantly better if they live around trees, and for good reason—in addition to helping you chill out, exposure to lots of green vegetation may be good for your cardiovascular health, as Cardiovascular Business reports.

A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that living in green areas is correlated with certain biomarkers for cardiovascular health. Scientists analyzed blood and urine samples from 408 people at a cardiology clinic, then compared the results to satellite-derived data on the levels of greenery around those patients’ homes (using 820-foot and half-mile radiuses).

Adjusting for age, sex, race, smoking status, “neighborhood deprivation” and other factors known to be linked heart disease rates, the researchers found that living in a green area was correlated with several markers of a healthy heart. Blood and urine samples from those participants who lived in green neighborhoods showed lower levels of sympathetic activation—the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response, which raises the heart rate and is involved in heart failure. Those participants also had reduced oxidative stress—an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can cause tissue damage and is linked to chronic disease. And they had higher angiogenic capacity, which refers to the body’s ability to form new blood vessels.

All this suggests that being around trees is somehow linked to having a healthier heart, though these are just biomarkers, not rates of heart disease or major cardiac events. But while scientists have yet to prove directly that being around trees causes your heart to be healthier, it’s not the first study to suggest a link. In 2015, a study of American women found that rates of heart disease went up in certain areas after a beetle invasion killed off a significant number of trees. Other studies have suggested that being around trees can reduce stress, which in itself may affect your risk of heart disease. Luckily, whether it qualifies as heart medicine or not, spending more time hanging out under trees couldn’t hurt.

[h/t Cardiovascular Business]

Survey Finds Microplastics in the Guts of All Seven Sea Turtle Species

iStock.com/RainervonBrandis
iStock.com/RainervonBrandis

Plastic is all around us—in our landfills, in our oceans, and even in the bellies of some of Earth's most vulnerable creatures. For a new paper in the journal Global Change Biology, researchers checked the guts of 102 deceased sea turtles, some of which belong to critically endangered species, and found that all of them tested positive for microplastics.

For the study, UK-based researchers from the University of Exeter, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and Greenpeace Research Laboratories studied turtles that had died after being stranded or accidentally caught by commercial fishing operations. All seven marine turtle species were tested, including the endangered green turtle and the critically endangered hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles.

The specimens were found off the coasts of North Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean, northern Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, and Queensland, Australia in the Pacific Ocean. Necropsies revealed plastic particles under 5mm in length, while microplastic fibers were one of the most common contaminants detected in their guts. These can come from a variety of sources, including clothing, tires, cigarette filters, ropes, and fishing nets. More than 800 synthetic particles were found in the turtles. Only one section of the gut was tested in each animal, so the actual number is likely 20 times higher, according to a University of Exeter statement.

A 2015 study, also in Global Change Biology, estimated that 52 percent of all sea turtles may have ingested microplastics.

"From our work over the years, we have found microplastic in nearly all the species of marine animals we have looked at, from tiny zooplankton at the base of the marine food web to fish larvae, dolphins, and now turtles," Dr. Penelope Lindeque, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said in the statement. "This study provides more evidence that we all need to help reduce the amount of plastic waste released to our seas and maintain clean, healthy, and productive oceans for future generations."

The consequences of ingesting microplastics—via contaminated water or by eating other fish or plants—isn't currently known. The particles are small enough to pass through the gut without causing any blockages, unlike larger plastics which can—and do—wreak havoc on marine life. While the authors concluded that microplastics, at their current levels, post less of a threat than fisheries bycatch and entanglements in fishing gear, they said further studies should be conducted to determine the actual risks.

"They may possibly carry contaminants, bacteria, or viruses, or they may affect the turtle at a cellular or subcellular level," lead author Dr. Emily Duncan of the University of Exeter said. "This requires further investigation."

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