Scientists have grown glowing cotton fibers

Cotton modified by chemists. Photo: Filipe Natalio

Cotton fibers that glow or are magnetic have been grown in a lab, researchers report in Science today. Instead of going the genetic engineering route, "we just used what Nature gave us," says study author Filipe Natalio from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Why it matters: Dyes, retardants and other fabric treatments can wash away, wear off or irritate some people's skin. Beyond durability, the researchers say they've taken a first step toward "material-farming" that may allow specialty fibers to be made from plants, spiders or silkworms.