Geneva, Switzerland - A leading Swiss science institute said Thursday that its researchers had developed a way to make high quality textile fibres from animal waste, a breakthrough that aims to reduce reliance on synthetic materials.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) said the fibres produced by PhD candidate Philipp Stossel and colleagues could ultimately rival merino wool, considered one of the most valuable types of sheep's wool and often used in high-end garments.

According to the ETHZ, roughly 70 million tonnes of fibres are traded globally per year, but nearly two thirds are made from non-renewable products like petroleum and natural gas.

The mostly widely used natural fibres -- wool and cotton -- have been displaced by predominately cheaper synthetics, the school added in a statement.

Stossel's method marks a departure from other natural fibre products in that it derives from gelatine, or waste that can typically be found in a slaughterhouse.

The 28-year-old, working with Professor Wendelin Stark has combined the organic solvent isopropyl with the heated gelatine derived from the skin, bones and tendons of slaughtered animals.

This produced a mass with no form from which Stossel was able to extract high quality threads that could be enhanced even further with additional additives.

"Stossel is convinced that he is very close to his ultimate goal: making a biopolymer fibre from a waste product," the EPFZ said.

Significant obstacles remain, including the need to make the gelatine-based textile fibre more water resistant.

Securing funding to explore the possibility of large-scale commercial production is another crucial step, the school said.