reGROW utilizes the simple and rapid cultivation of kombucha, common maker tools, reuse of waste grape crops, and open source philosophies to deliver an intelligent biomedical gown that can assist in the rehabilitation of patients with a selection of skin injuries and ailments.


Noumena and IN(3D)USTRY From Needs to Solutions presented the IV edition of RESHAPE competition and its forum held in Octobre 2018 in Fira Barcelona.
The wearable technology category of the competition challenged designers to propose a new garment solution, relevant to the environment and human health. The jury was looking for wearable products that tackle daily problems, such as respiration, contamination, harmful body postures, disabilities, and stress.
The submitted project needed to present a clear prototyping methodology involving digital manufacturing technologies. Interdisciplinary processes, experimental approaches and innovative design production strategies are required to become the new pioneers of this digital age.

Our proposal, the reGROW project, won the 1st prize of this category.
We are very thankful for this recognition, especially considering the quality of the jury and of the other competing projects!

reGROW is an exploration in sustainability, local manufacturing, and the intelligent cooperation with a living organism – kombucha – in the form of a living mat made of bacterial cellulose. It is one of the most promising natural, renewable polymers for biomedical applications for its antioxydant properties and ease to grow. This research project involves a multidisciplinary, international team in the investigation of bacterial cellulose potential as an assistive and reactive fabric with use-specific applications. The water retention and moisturising properties make the material an ideal candidate to combine both burn treatment and the delivery of encapsulated active compounds onto damaged skin. reGROW is a smart, yet fashionable, scalable and easy-to-produce medical gown.
Kombucha mother, serving the initial inoculation of a new mat, can be sourced from various beverage manufacturers. The kombucha starter is left at room temperature for minimal energy consumption, within a blend of sugar, tea, and vinegar, with proportions optimised to optain the best growth. The kombucha is covered during its growth in order to prevent dust and contamination. The low pH solution, due to the vinegar, acts as inhibitor to the growth of harmful mold and bacteria.

Thanks to the adaptive nature of the bacterial cellulose colony, a fine topology is obtained by drying the kombucha on a textured surface, imprinting the negative of any desired pattern. The reGROW design draws inspiration from traditional fabric-saving kimono pattern. The applied pattern minimises waste from the 2x2m raw material. The result is adaptive yet resource saving by design. The accompanying images present prototyping of different roughness, dryness and rigidity of the material. These demonstrate the potential diversity of reGROW kombucha-based designs. The aesthetic potential of bacterial cellulose is unleashed by combining functional elements with purely decorative construction, emphasising the loss of boundaries between forms and function allowed by this technique.
The material’s medical applications and associated regulations require the disposal of potential biohazards. This requirement is deeply integrated in this project and becomes a major advantage as the kombucha-based material is completely compostable.

reGROW utilizes a completely natural dye derived from a solution of ethanol and water, obtaining anthocyanin and resveratrol extract from grape skins and seeds. The dye extraction can be achieved using a typical kitchen set-up, a strong, neutral liquor – vodka – and wine grape by-products.
The colour for the dye is derived from the anthocyanins extracted. The technique uses waste wine grapes since these skins are of high quality and would otherwise be disposed of. Also present in the dye is resveratrol – an antioxidant compound linked to skin health and regeneration. Both the colouring anthocyanins, and the other grape extract compounds have been found to assist with skin healing. The extract is used as dye without mordanting. Applying a frugal innovation technique, reGROW draws on the weakness of natural dye fastness as a bioindicator of the garments antioxidant concentration status, resulting in a functional, non-numerical data, embedded within the biological material.
Through a dedicated colour chart, patients easily know when to change the reGROW gown as the dye vibrancy depletes, giving them agency and an active role in their own treatment and healing.

As per its low-tech requirements for growing conditions, reGROW allows for production in remote areas and re-activation of undervalued infrastructure. Repurposing of Salt ponds is a possible exploration.

Functionnal innovations
– Naturally anti-oxydant rich
– Potential encapsulation of active compounds
– Participatory open design

Benefits to patient
– Self-esteem through dignity and aesthetic pride
– Sense of purpose as active role in monitoring color and gown replacement
– Accelerated recovery time

Environment
– All natural processes and materials
– No waste stream, growing medium is room-temperature and sugar-depleted low concentration tea water, which can be released in natural environment without major effect
– Fully biodegradable and compostable design

Foreseen developments
– Quantify the dynamic relations between dye color and antioxidants within the kombucha material
– Exploiting the strong structural aspects of bacterial cellulose, which is stronger than plant cellulose
– Optimising the environmental impact of the growth through use of agricultural wastes
– Develop further coatings of the kombucha in order to improve both the user experience and the release of active compounds
– Develop product lines based on epigenetics, favoring certain phenotypes through  growing conditions. This gives a living dialogue between the kombucha strains and the  gown brewers

reGROW opens up two main tracks of future development:
finely-tuned, personalised drug delivery and on-demand, easily producible skin treating gauze for remote areas and provides an option in biomedical treatments for local  communities around the globe.

The treatment of the raw kombucha and tailoring of the material is achieved with standard, readily-available tools. All components and processes are listed on Github for maximum reach and feedback from the maker community.

By reducing the barriers to entry, reGROW increases the accessibility of this smart material to more communities and help speed up Life Science and Medical Devices open and sustainable innovations.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you are willing to know more about this project, more developments are on-going.

Download the PDF submission here.
reGROW on Reshape’s website.

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Project team
Adrien Rigobello – Project Manager, thr34d5
Vivien Roussel – Kombucha Expert, thr34d5
Tim Leeson – Designer, thr34d5
Dr Robert Pott – Collaborating Researcher
Surzhana Radnaeva – Fashion designer, Fashion Photographer
Benjamin Denjean – Ecosystem Designer
Video edition: Hind Saâd
Guest speaker: Imane Baïz (DITOs)
Model: Valeria Gelardi