A fishy business The $1,800 sneakers with colourful prints 'grown' to order by mixing and matching stingray DNA
22:58 GMT, 30 May 2012
A new footwear company is customising the skin of living stingrays to make $1,800 bespoke sneakers.
RayFish Footwear enables customers 'grow' their own stingray by having scientists mix and match DNA from several different species, breeding unique patterns and colours in their skin.
The company claims to have perfected the genetic modification of stingrays, which has been met with both skepticism and disgust from PETA and bioengineering scientists.
Stingray sneakers: RayFish Footwear is offering customers the opportunity to 'grow' their own stingray, where the company's scientists combine different DNA traits to breed unique patterns and colors in their skin
Customised creations: The company claims to have perfected the genetic modification of stingrays, enabling customers to mix and match traits from different species to create bespoke patterned sneakers
Dr Raymond Ong, head of RayFish
Footwear, explained the process: 'Using the DNA on file in our genetic library from
dozens of different species… we identify the genes responsible for
color and pattern, and implant the synthetic 'supergene' cluster into
fetal rays before they are born.'
He continued: 'As the ray grows and matures, it expresses the predetermined patterns on its skin.'
The technology used for this 'bio-customized' stingray skin is a patented process, and by remixing DNA, the company claims it can 'create designs never before seen in nature'.
However, questions have been raised surrounding the company's claims, as well as the legality and ethics of the technology.
David Edwards, a professor of
Bioengineering at Harvard University told MailOnline: 'You're right to question the claims. One suspects
they are playing with genetics, if they are doing anything at all, and
claiming an understanding they don't possess.'
Scientific shoes: Using DNA in its genetic
library from dozens of different species… RayFish identifies genes
responsible for color and pattern, implanting the synthetic 'supergene' into fetal stingrays before they are born
Genetically grown: As the stingray grows and matures, it expresses the predetermined patterns on its skin
He continued: 'The ethics of this, not to say the legality, are other issues at least disturbing.'
RayFish Footwear say they are able to produce a 'shoe-sized' stingray within six to eight months, using a nutrient-rich diet and carefully controlled lighting system in its aquaculture facility in Thailand.
Stingray skin, called shagreen, became fashionable throughout Europe by the mid-18th century.
While some believe that wearing stingray
leather is acceptable, many see breeding genetically engineered
stingrays for the sole purpose of turning them into a shoe as unethical.
Animal welfare theorists have moral objections regarding animal genetic engineering, including PETA, and this form of 'bio-customization' has raised moral, ecological, and ethical concerns.
Science-fiction stingrays: The technology used for this 'bio-customized' stingray leather is a patented process, and by remixing pattern-generating DNA, RayFish Footwear can create designs naturally unseen in nature
Mix and match: There are 26 DNA traits on file, and using the design tool on the RayFish website, customers can combine up to nine genes to build their own shoe pattern, like this zebra pattern
PETA told MailOnline: 'The idea of breeding and killing neon-patterned stingrays sounds like something out of a horror film.
They continued: 'Even though stingrays may not be as
familiar to us as the dogs and cats we share our homes with, they have
the same capacity to suffer and feel pain. We hope that consumers will
make the kind choice to buy products that don't cause the suffering and
death of any animal.'
RayFish Footwear say they are still
perfecting their methods, and are soft launching the product with a
series of design contests on its website, where winners will receive a
free pair of shoes.
There are 26 traits on file, and using
the design tool on the RayFish website, customers can combine up to nine
different genes to build their own shoe pattern.
Stingray skins: Snake-snail (left) and Dragon-leopard (right) genetically designed patterned skins
Custom patterns: Snake-tyre (left) and Blue-zebra (right) stingray skins
Unlimited patterns: RayFish Footwear are still perfecting their methods, however once regular production begins later this year, a pair of the personalised sneakers made from the stingray leather will cost $1,800
Once regular production begins later
this year, a pair of the personalised sneakers made from the stingray
leather will cost approximately $1,800.
Dr Ong said 'We cannot breed
any desirable shape or logo on the fishes, as our patterning process
works by recording and recombining DNA of existing animals. Squares are
for instance not possible, as the expression of the DNA on the skin
doesn’t allow it.'
He continued: 'The patterns that grow
on the actual fish sometimes slightly differ from what you see in the
design tool. Although it is almost perfect, we are still developing the
mapping between the design tool and the DNA encoding further.'