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Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

Discussion in 'Science' started by Hawkeye, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye OMG Member

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    Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    LONDON (AP) — Call it pork in a petri dish — a technique to turn pig stem cells into strips of meat that scientists say could one day offer a green alternative to raising livestock, help alleviate world hunger, and save some pigs their bacon.


    Dutch scientists have been growing pork in the laboratory since 2006, and while they admit they haven't gotten the texture quite right or even tasted the engineered meat, they say the technology promises to have widespread implications for our food supply.


    "If we took the stem cells from one pig and multiplied it by a factor of a million, we would need one million fewer pigs to get the same amount of meat," said Mark Post, a biologist at Maastricht University involved in the In-vitro Meat Consortium, a network of publicly funded Dutch research institutions that is carrying out the experiments.


    Post describes the texture of the meat as sort of like scallop, firm but a little squishy and moist. That's because the lab meat has less protein content than conventional meat.


    Several other groups in the U.S., Scandinavia and Japan are also researching ways to make meat in the laboratory, but the Dutch project is the most advanced, said Jason Matheny, who has studied alternatives to conventional meat at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and is not involved in the Dutch research.


    In the U.S., similar research was funded by NASA, which hoped astronauts would be able to grow their own meat in space. But after growing disappointingly thin sheets of tissue, NASA gave up and decided it would be better for its astronauts to simply eat vegetarian.


    To make pork in the lab, Post and colleagues isolate stem cells from pigs' muscle cells. They then put those cells into a nutrient-based soup that helps the cells replicate to the desired number.


    So far the scientists have only succeeded in creating strips of meat about 1 centimeter (a half inch) long; to make a small pork chop, Post estimates it would take about 30 days of cell replication in the lab.


    There are tantalizing health possibilities in the technology.


    Fish stem cells could be used to produce healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which could be mixed with the lab-produced pork instead of the usual artery-clogging fats found in livestock meat.


    "You could possibly design a hamburger that prevents heart attacks instead of causing them," Matheny said.


    Post said the strips they've made so far could be used as processed meat in sausages or hamburgers. Their main problem is reproducing the protein content in regular meat: In livestock meat, protein makes up about 99 percent of the product; the lab meat is only about 80 percent protein. The rest is mostly water and nucleic acids.


    None of the researchers have actually eaten the lab-made meat yet, but Post said the lower protein content means it probably wouldn't taste anything like pork.


    The Dutch researchers started working with pork stem cells because they had the most experience with pigs, but said the technology should be transferable to other meats, like chicken, beef and lamb.


    Some experts warn lab-made meats might have potential dangers for human health.


    "With any new technology, there could be subtle impacts that need to be monitored," said Emma Hockridge, policy manager at Soil Association, Britain's leading organic organization.


    As with genetically modified foods, Hockridge said it might take some time to prove the new technology doesn't harm humans. She also said organic farming relies on crop and livestock rotation, and that taking animals out of the equation could damage the ecosystem.


    Some experts doubted lab-produced meat could ever match the taste of real meat.


    "What meat tastes like depends not just on the genetics, but what you feed the animals at particular times," said Peter Ellis, a biochemistry expert at King's College London. "Part of our enjoyment of eating meat depends on the very complicated muscle and fat structure...whether that can be replicated is still a question."


    If it proves possible, experts say growing meat in laboratories instead of raising animals on farmland would do wonders for the environment.


    Hanna Tuomisto, who studies the environmental impact of food production at Oxford University said that switching to lab-produced meat could theoretically lower greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95 percent. Both land and water use would also drop by about 95 percent, she said.


    "In theory, if all the meat was replaced by cultured meat, it would be huge for the environment," she said. "One animal could produce many thousands of kilograms of meat." In addition, lab meat can be nurtured with relatively few nutrients like amino acids, fats and natural sugars, whereas livestock must be fed huge amounts of traditional crops.


    Tuomisto said the technology could potentially increase the world's meat supply and help fight global hunger, but that would depend on how many factories there are producing the lab-made meat.


    Post and colleagues haven't worked out how much the meat would cost to produce commercially, but because there would be much less land, water and energy required, he guessed that once production reached an industrial level, the cost would be equivalent to or lower than that of conventionally produced meat.


    One of the biggest obstacles will be scaling up laboratory meat production to satisfy skyrocketing global demand. By 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization predicts meat consumption will double from current levels as growing middle classes in developing nations eat more meat.


    "To produce meat at an industrial scale, we will need very large bioreactors, like those used to make vaccines or pasteurized milk," said Matheny. He thought lab-produced meat might be on the market within the next few years, while Post said it could take about a decade.


    For the moment, the only types of meat they are proposing to make this way are processed meats like minced meat, hamburgers or hot dogs.


    "As long as it's cheap enough and has been proven to be scientifically valid, I can't see any reason people wouldn't eat it," said Stig Omholt, a genetics expert at the University of Life Sciences in Norway. "If you look at the sausages and other things people are willing to eat these days, this should not be a big problem."


    [​IMG]
    In this handout photo made available on Friday Jan. 15, 2010, a photomicrograph of muscle tissue is seen. The muscle fibers are seen diagonally from lower left to upper right. The blue dots are the nuclei of the cells, the yellow color is the result of an overlay (green and red) of two of the most important proteins in skeletal muscle, actin and myosin. Dutch scientists have been growing pork in a laboratory, call it pork in a petri dish, a technique to turn pig stem cells into strips of meat that scientists say could one day offer an environment-friendly alternative to raising livestock.







    Ok, this freaks me out a bit!

    How many more steps does it take to get into Soylent Green territory?

    If I tell Zack about this one, that nut will start eating trees.:lol:
     
  2. Sovereign002

    Sovereign002 Rest in Peace - 28th Feb 2010

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    I can so imagine people complaining it just doesn't taste the same as real meat. :p

    It's a good idea, it might help things quite a bit. Though I wonder if it would be ultimately cheaper to produce meat this way. I do think the taste might be an issue for a good time to come. But perhaps this could serve as a substitute.
     
  3. hybrid_hunter

    hybrid_hunter OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    Some steaksauce will probably make it edible
    Also I predict that many of the current industrial farms will try to oppose this, should it actually become feasable.
     
  4. heavymetal

    heavymetal OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    some of the meat on the market don't taste like real meat either.

    one of these days we will be growing pork-chops from trees! or on tomato vines!
     
  5. OP
    Hawkeye

    Hawkeye OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    Soy based meat substitutes already had me suspicious and I vowed to never put that on my plate. Never tasted it, as far as I know.

    That stem cell stuff does not have a chance with me. My ways just will not allow me to do it.

    If stem cell meat can give someone the choice of having a meal that otherwise would not, I say eat and be well.

    Its just not for me.
     
  6. Ki Adi Mundi

    Ki Adi Mundi I decimate ninjas.

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    Well... maybe not stem-celled meat... that's just freaky. But wow! Think of all the grain this could grow, etc. This is actually very cool news.
     
  7. Nemmerle

    Nemmerle OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    Oh goody, a way to expend yet more of our resources bringing vast numbers of people into poverty.
     
  8. Cap'n Rommel

    Cap'n Rommel OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    And there will be an outrage in the muslim and jewish world


    pretty awesome if you ask me, but i prefer quality meat over anything
     
  9. Wasturr

    Wasturr OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    What for?

    They don't eat pork for starters.

    And they did not mind pork goods flooding the market even way back then.


    Anyways seems a complicated process just to yield a piece of meat.
     
  10. Junk Angel

    Junk Angel OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    Well wouldn't then a part of their opposition fall off? Lab grown pork is definitely extremely clean and the animal didn't wallow around in muck.

    Though not counting feasability I think the biggest problem will be taste. There already is a massive difference between meat from animals that actually tend to freely graze and animals that just get fed who knows what.

    On top of that movement probably makes part of the taste as well.
     
  11. Cap'n Rommel

    Cap'n Rommel OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    Playing god growing pork?

    I rest my case.

    And well.. part of the original opposition have already fallen off.. Nowadays theres almost no cleaner meat than pork.

    It all comes down to religion. nothing else
     
  12. Wasturr

    Wasturr OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    Why religion again?


    Sheeesh you need to get to the middle east emil ,their main staple when it comes to meat is either goat or sheep.

    Pretty much in abundance both there and europe. So unless a freaking super plague comes in and kills all the fishies, And non pork yielding animals in the whole wide world. They're gonna be okay with it.

    You seem to try and trounce religion even when there's no basis on where to trounce it on.

    The last time I checked where religion opposed science was in cloning. (which was unfruitful since there are quite a few cloned animals now grazing on this planet)
     
  13. Evil

    Evil OMG Member

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    Re: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork

    I might try it once out of curiosity. But I would be wary of eating it regularly.
     
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