Campaign for Wool NZ partners with AgResearch in home microbiome study

Campaign for Wool NZ (CFWNZ) has partnered with AgResearch to learn more about the impact of materials used in interior furnishings and bedding on the microbiome of our homes.

The study – the first of its type – will assess the microbiome within commonly found materials in the home, such as wool and polyester.

‘Microbiome’ refers to a group of microorganisms in a specific environment, which can include bacteria, viruses, fungi and other single-celled organisms.

The hypothesis for the research, which will involve the analysis of wool-filled and synthetic fibre-filled pillows, along with wool and synthetic carpet, is that the stark compositional differences between wool and synthetics will give rise to a different microbiome. Continue reading

Farm assurance programme establishes NZ National Standard for Wool

A new NZ National Standard for Wool has been established under the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP) with 15 new wool companies signing up to the programme.

The NZFAP provides assurances to customers and consumers about the integrity, traceability, biosecurity, food safety, environmental sustainability and animal health and welfare of New Zealand’s primary sector products.

The 15 wool companies are joining the 17 red meat processors, one other wool company, a sheep milk company, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) already in the programme.

The collaboration enables the wool industry members to adopt the NZFAP as a NZ National Standard for wool. Continue reading

Govt supports sustainable wool carpets project to develop more sustainable products

The Government is supporting a new project with the all-wool New Zealand carpet company, Bremworth, which aims to develop more sustainable all-wool carpets and rugs.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is contributing $1.9 million towards Bremworth’s $4.9 million sustainability project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund. Bremworth is a subsidiary of Cavalier Corporation Limited.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the three-year programme will involve research and development of natural and green chemistry-based alternatives to the few remaining synthetic components of woollen carpets.

“The rise of synthetic carpets has overtaken wool dramatically in the last few decades, which has severely affected the wool industry,” Damien O’Connor said.

“I’m told that an average Kiwi household laid with synthetic carpet is estimated to have the equivalent weight of 22,000 plastic shopping bags on its floor. That’s a compelling reason to use sustainable wool wherever we can to make healthy homes for Kiwis and the world.

“More than ever consumers are considering the entire life-cycle of products. We believe this programme will spur demand for New Zealand strong wool and enhance our manufacturing competitiveness through strong environmental credentials that challenge industry norms.”

New Zealand wool is 100 per cent biodegradable, renewable and sustainable.

“It aims to keep New Zealand woollen yarn and carpet manufacturing capacity in New Zealand, preserving jobs, and protecting local communities and supply chains.”

Damien O’Connor said revitalising the strong wool sector was a key part of delivering the Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential Roadmap, released last year. It included bringing forward $84 million of SFF Futures funding for innovative and creative projects.

“This new project is a great example of an initiative that aims to create a step change in the wool products manufactured in Aotearoa, and deliver on the Fit for a Better World vision. Continue reading

Farm leaders welcome plan to revitalise the wool sector

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has welcomed the release of a new report aimed at making the strong wool sector more sustainable and profitable.

B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison says a healthy wool sector is important to many sheep meat producers.

The poor price for strong wool is consistently raised as an issue by many of our farmers, he said.

“We understand it has been a frustrating time and wool profitability is really challenging at the moment. 

“Meat processors have been great at responding to a diversity of markets and a diversity of products, and extracting value from co-products. The challenge is now to maximise sustainable production from this fifth quarter, being wool. ” Continue reading

Funding is provided for research on a new use for wool – to make high-performance PPE masks

Lincoln Agritech, a research and development company owned by Lincoln University, has received $290,000 in government funding to create biodegradable wool-based PPE masks for the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The 18-month research programme is using patented technology from the Wool Research Organisation (WRONZ) to change the physical format of the fibre and improve its absorption and virus-neutralising properties, making the masks both highly effective and environmentally sustainable.

The resulting products will reduce dependence on overseas producers, particularly during high-demand pandemic events, as well as decreasing the environmental impact of PPE use.

Continue reading

NASA is evaluating New Zealand wool technology

A New Zealand-developed, wool-based filter technology is one of several filter systems being evaluated by NASA to protect astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on upcoming deep-space exploration missions.

Designed by Auckland based wool innovators Lanaco, the HelixTM filter is sourced from the company’s purpose bred AstinoTM sheep and is being tested for use in Orion’s emergency life-support system in the event of on-board fires.

The Helix filter could be used as a pre-filter layer for emergency personal equipment and cabin air systems, preventing clogging in other filter layers by removing thick contaminants like molten plastic.

Shaun Tan, Lanaco Head of Technology, recently returned from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston and is confident that the Helix filter can deliver on NASA’s requirements.

“In the case of the Orion life-support system, the Helix filter is being tested for particle loading capacity, breathability, flame resistance and the ability to function even if exposed to Orion’s water-based fire extinguisher systems,” says Dr Tan.

“The Helix filter is currently used in protective equipment in high contaminant situations like construction and mining, but firefighting in space represents a new challenge for our R&D team.” 

Lanaco’s wool-filter technology made headlines in 2017 following the launch of anti-pollution face masks now popular in several Asian and Indian mega-cities.

Lanaco CEO Nick Davenport says that recent successes demonstrate the versatility and effectiveness of wool-based air filtration.

“Wool is an outstanding fibre. Its electrostatic properties catch small harmful particles, its protein structure captures gases and harmful toxins and yet the fibre is bacteria and flame resistant. We believe in wool as a sustainable, innovative solution to combat air-pollution,” says Mr Davenport.

“The Lanaco story is one of New Zealand high-country farmers producing the world’s greatest natural fibre to protect people from poor quality air. To now be playing a role in supporting deep space exploration is a testament to the farmers, scientists and manufacturers that have pushed Lanaco to the forefront of filter technology.”

Source: Lanaco

What makes your hair curl? An AgResearch hint: it’s not eating your crusts


Shall we curl it …. or leave it straight? 

Heaps of money have been spent on making our hair curly or taming it straight but scientists haven’t been sure what makes our hair curl in the first place.

New Zealand scientists have set about trying to find out by examining merino sheep to learn what’s behind the spring in their locks.

They found different cell types on either side of the strands, with small cells on the inside of the curl and longer cells on the outside. So rather than some cells growing faster than others, they found the type of cell is important to curls.

They think their discovery could help in developing new products for taming our tresses.

The work was supported by Kao Corporation and by AgResearch through its Integrated Wool Sciences Programme (Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment, Science Strategic Investment Fund).

It is being reported today (HERE) by scimex.

Duane Harland, from AgResearch, says there were two competing theories about what makes hair curl naturally.

Individual hairs are made up of two different cell types – paracortical cells (which are packed with parallel keratin fibres) and orthocortical cells (which are packed with twisted keratin fibres).

One theory suggested that the longer orthocortical cells would line the outer side of the curve, with paracortical cells lining the inner side. The alternative theory suggested there were more cells on the outer side of the curl, because the cells on that side of the hair follicle divided more, increasing the number of cells in the outer curve of the curl.

“But most of these theories have very limited or indirect evidence to back them up,” says Harland.

Having worked with Japan’s Kao Corporation cosmetics company to learn more about the structure of human hair, Jolon Dyer and Stefan Clerens teamed up with Shinobu Nagase, Takashi Itou and Kenzo Koike to get to grips with the knotty problem of what makes hair curly.

But because human hair is too coarse to analyse its cell structure, the team turned to fine curly merino sheep wool. They explain that the chemistry, structure and growth of all hair is essentially the same, so the lessons learned from sheep’s wool will apply to human hair also.

Knowing the exact origin of the merino sheep whose wool was used in the study,
David Scobie clipped a few full length locks from the winter coats of each animal before Harland, James Vernon and Joy Woods spent hours painstakingly cleaning and preparing over seven hundred 0.5 cm snippets from the base of individual fibres.

Great care was taken to make sure they were measuring the natural curvature programmed in during fibre development and not curvature imposed later while the wool was on the sheep’s back or during washing and processing.

The fibres were dried on a vibrating surface to ensure they didn’t pick up any additional kinks.

Harland describes how manoeuvring the snippets onto microscope slides took a steady nerve.

“Grabbing the snippets with fine forceps was not an option because they were easily damaged…so we used the electrostatic force on the tip of fine forceps to accurately position them.”

The team then measured the curvature of each wool snippet before staining it and transferring it to a confocal microscope to reveal the curl’s cell structure.

After months of counting and measuring the cells on the inside and outside of each curly snippet, the team could see that the shorter paracortical cells lined the inside of the curve, while the longer orthocortical cells were located on the outside of the curl. Hence the curl was produced by the arrangement of the different cell types and not cells dividing more often on one side of the hair follicle to produce more cells on the outside of the curl.

“We have established clearly that cell type is important, as is cell length,” Harland says.

The same should hold true for human hair.

The global hair-care market is estimated to be worth over $85 billion. The team therefore is optimistic that its discovery could contribute to the design of novel hair products.

New research uncovers the effects on skin health of what we wear

AgResearch scientists are shedding new light on the connection between what people wear and the health of their skin.

In research funded by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), AgResearch has been working with human volunteers and testing skin reactions to different fabrics.

Initial findings show benefits for skin health from the natural fibre (wool) over a synthetic fibre (polyester).

The work follows on from studies by AWI at the Queensland Institute of Dermatology and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute that showed significant reductions in sufferers’ eczema symptoms from wearing superfine wool garments against the skin.

“There’s been a lot of science looking at the connection between our health and what we put in our bodies, but here we are looking what we wear on our bodies and what that may mean for our skin health,” says AgResearch scientist Dr Alex Hodgson.

“We set out with our 16 volunteers to look at how their healthy skin reacted to wearing close-fitting fabrics during the day – wool and polyester. The volunteers wore merino wool base-layer shirts, with a patch of polyester on one side of their upper back area.

“We took skin measurements from both sides (wool and polyester) of their upper backs in a lab over a period of four weeks to look at things such as hydration, water loss through the skin, and inflammation.”

The researchers found polyester tended to reduce the hydration of the wearers’ skin and also – especially for men – resulted in increased redness or inflammation of the skin.  The skin covered with wool showed no negative effects during the study.

“From this we can see that wool promoted the maintenance of healthy skin whilst polyester had a drying effect with some inflammation,” Dr Hodgson said.

“The study has a second phase which involves a ‘long-term’ wear study in which the volunteers wear the trial garments continuously for five days and nights. The results of this will be assessed later this year.”

Ultimately, this work is about providing guidance and reassurance for consumers, Dr Hodgson said.

“We know consumers now consider many factors before they buy goods. Just as people now know what different foods can do to their health, our aim is that people will also be able to make informed choices about what they wear, and what that might mean for the health of their skin.”

The eight men and eight women who volunteered for the study ranged in age from 25 to 63 years.

Source: AgResearch