Scientists say they are on the verge of ‘growing’ wood which will allow tables to be produced from a few cells.

They claim to have found a way to grow the wood-like plant tissue in a lab without soil or sunlight.

And they say it could help save the environment by reducing the need to destroy forests.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US suggested the technology could be used to design different pieces of furniture.

Dr Luis Fernando Velásquez-García said: "If you want a table, then you should just grow a table.

"The idea is not only to tailor the properties of the material but also to tailor the shape from conception."

The team started by extracting live cells from the leaves of a zinnia plant.

These were put in a liquid which caused them to start reproducing.

The cells were then moved into a gel where they continued to proliferate, New Atlas reports.

The gel provides a structure for the cells to grow.

By adding two plant hormones, called auxin and cytokinin, the cells started to produce lignin – a substance which gives wood its firmness.

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The study, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, said the team ended up with a small wood-like rigid structure.

Varying the number of hormones they used in the gel would help them tweak the structure of the wood researchers concluded.

This means the process could be used in the future to grow wooden products.

The scientists say they are now looking at how to use the system on a large scale.

But David Stern, a plant biologist, told MIT News scaling up the approach would take "significant financial and intellectual investment".

The potential breakthrough comes after lab-grown meat, made without killing any animals, goes on sale for the first time.

Officials in Singapore have authorised the chicken meat, which is produced in bioreactors and grown from animal muscle cells.

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