New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) has been been named the winner of the first Biodesign Challenge (BDC) for its work developing a yarn out of bacteria and fungi that was used to create a sustainable alternative to conventional textiles.

For the winning project, FIT's student team created a material out of alginate (algae) and chitosan (fungi) and extruded it from a syringe as a filament and knitted this "yarn" into fabric. The resulting textile, though not ready for production, represents a step toward a closed-loop life-cycle system for fashion, says FIT, as the fabric is not only biodegradable but could be used as a nutrient for growing more materials.

As part of its presentation, the team showed a T-shirt that had been hand-knitted from the yarn which, during tests in FIT's textile testing labs, was found to stretch 70% beyond its original length.

The BDC competition was created by Dan Grushkin, a writer and the founder of GenSpace, a non-profit that promotes education in molecular biology for both children and adults. BDC sees teams of students from nine US colleges and universities create projects that envision future applications of biotechnology.

The FIT team, which comprised of three students from the Fashion Design programme's knitwear specialisation, were announced as the winners during an event at the city's Museum of Modern Art last month.