Carne in vitro
In Vitro Meat
by Gregor Wolbring
May 15 , 2007
In vitro meat, also known as laboratory-grown meat is -- according to Wikipidia -- animal flesh that has never been part of a complete, living animal. Potentially, any animal could be a source of cells for in vitro meat, even humans. No meat has yet been produced for public consumption, but many people are now working in the field. In vitro meat differs from synthetic and artificial meat, which taste and have the texture of meat but do not consist of meat.
New Harvest is a non-profit organization created in the United States to bring cultivated meat closer to reality. Its webpage includes an article by Marianne Heselmans from a Dutch newspaper on September 10, 2005, translated into English with the title “Cultivated Meat: The Dutch cultivate minced meat in a petri dish.” The article states that “the universities of Eindhoven, Utrecht and Amsterdam are working to cultivate muscles out of the stem cells of a pig,” and that “the Senter/Novem Institute of the Department of Economic Affairs has allotted a two million euro subsidy for a project to cultivate pork meat out of stem cells.”
The article quotes Dr. Henk Haagsman, Professor of Meat Sciences at the University of Utrecht: "Six years from now we might already have a product. No loin, yet, but indeed a kind of minced meat the catering industry can use in pizzas or sauces.'' Haagsman is also quoted as believing that cost and taste will be similar to regular meat.
The article goes on: “Cell biologists at Utrecht are searching for suitable stem cells and methods to let them grow into as much muscle as possible. Microbiologists at Amsterdam design the environment for growth. And tissue engineers at Eindhoven design bioreactors in which small muscle tissue grows quickly. Sausage manufacturer Stegeman, as of now owned by the American Sara Lee company, has also joined. Aside from the Senter/Novem-subsidy, the participants together allot an additional 2.3 million Euros to the project.”
The Netherlands is the first country where manufacturing cultivated meat is being approached in a systematic way. There appear to be two main patents relating to in vitro meat, however these in turn cite a variety of other patents. It is interesting who the owners are. I listed have these patents with links at the end of this column.
It appears that the first research into in vitro meat was performed by M. A. Benjaminson from Touro College. His research group managed to grow muscle tissue from goldfish in a laboratory setting with several kinds of growth media.
Wired magazine quotes Paul Kosnik, vice president of engineering at Tissue Genesis in Hawaii: "All of the technology exists today to make ground meat products in vitro." Kosnik is growing scaffold-free, self-assembled muscle. "We believe the goal of a processed meat product is attainable in the next five years if funding is available and the R&D is pursued aggressively." "In the meantime, we can use existing technologies to satisfy the demand for ground meat, which is about half of the meat we eat (and a $127 billion global market)," says Matheny, a University of Maryland doctoral student and a director of New Harvest.
Beef magazine presents a contrary view in a February 1, 2007, article Test-Tube Meat by Lorne McClinton: “Douglas McFarland, a South Dakota State University animal science professor, says cattlemen needn't worry about competition from in vitro meat anytime soon. “I don't imagine I'll be buying a slab of tissue-engineered meat in the supermarket in my lifetime,” McFarland says. “It will remain too expensive, and I don't know if enough money is going to be put into it (research) to make it a reality.”
The research described above is based on stem cells, scaffolding technology and bioreactors. Ink-jet printers are a recent addition to the toolbox for in vitro meat which are gaining more attention. Muscle and bone cell differentiation can be engineered with aid of such printers. A Pittsburgh University press release from December 2006 states: “A Pittsburgh-based research team has created and used an innovative ink-jet system to print ‘bio-ink’ patterns that direct muscle-derived stem cells from adult mice to differentiate into both muscle cells and bone cells.”
The results, according to the Pittsburgh University press release “could revolutionize the design of replacement body tissues.”
A list of recent ink-jet printer papers related to the issue is provided at the end of this column.
The Link to Regenerative Medicine
Research which advances the regenerative tissue and regenerative medicine field will likely have an impact on the in vitro meat field and vice versa.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) supports research not only in bionic body part replacements and brain machine interfaces but also in tissue regeneration research -- in substantial ways. This is partly in response to the injuries received by US soldiers.
The University of Pittsburgh says on its webpage, “in recognition of the need
for novel approaches that can restore, even partially, the structure and function of lost or damaged tissues, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $3.7 million grant to the University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine to oversee an ambitious, multi-center research program to better understand the intricate processes involved in wound healing and tissue restoration. A large part of the team's effort will involve examining the cellular and molecular systems that allow certain animals to completely regenerate lost tissue. The ultimate goal of the research is to identify ways for enhancing the capacity for wound healing and tissue restoration in humans.”
The Choice is Yours
There has not been much debate about in vitro meat -- or about artificial meat, for that matter. It will be interesting to see how animal rights groups deal with advances in in vitro meats, and how they will weigh and judge them against advances in artificial meat. It will also be interesting to see how consumers react and what they will accept.
Some people have taken early positions for and against in vitro meat.
In the article “In-Vitro Meat How Should Vegetarians See In-Vitro Meat?” Rina Deych gives a variety of arguments in favour, including:
- reduced animal suffering;
- decreased danger to human health;
- reduced impacts on the environment;
- greater consumer choice; and
- reductions in the cost of production.
She states: “Interestingly, though the reaction is mixed in the vegetarian/vegan community, some people who have given it the thumbs up are: Peter Singer (philosopher, Princeton professor, and author of Animal Liberation), Patrice Greanville (of Animals Agenda and Animal People), Alix Fano (friend, author of Lethal Laws, and executive director of the Campaign for Responsible Transplantation), Richard Schwartz (author of Judaism and Vegetarianism and president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America), and Valerie Traina (friend, fellow-activist and Director of Development, Great Plains Restoration Council).
Arguments against in vitro meat include:
- animals are still used;
- this is an artificial product;
- quality concerns;
- safety and health concerns;
- differences from traditionally produced meat; and
- related economic impacts.
Jeff Perz is an animal rights advocate who is opposed to in vitro meat. A variety of arguments can found in his article, “The Case Against Test Tube Meat.”
Interestingly, somehow as an pre-emptive strike, advocates of in vitro meat have already advanced a line of reasoning that is similar to the “stem cells are not human life but a clump of cells” argument: “One last thought: if there are any arguments from anybody that in vitro meat is still somehow unethical or demeaning to an animal, they seriously need to rethink things. A chunk of tissue grown in a petri dish is as far removed from an existential, emotional, and conscious creature as is a rock.”
Gregor Wolbring is a biochemist, bioethicist, disability/vari-ability/ability studies scholar, and health policy and science and technology governance researcher at the University of Calgary. He is a member of the Center for Nanotechnology and Society at Arizona State University; Part Time Professor at Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, Canada; Member CAC/ISO - Canadian Advisory Committees for the International Organization for Standardization section TC229 Nanotechnologies; Member of the editorial team for the Nanotechnology for Development portal of the Development Gateway Foundation; Chair of the Bioethics Taskforce of Disabled People's International; and former Member of the Executive of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (2003-2007 maximum terms served). He publishes the Bioethics, Culture and Disability website, moderates a weblog for the International Network for Social Research on Disability, and authors a weblog on NBICS and its social implications.
In Vitro Meat
Benjaminson, M.A., et al. "In vitro edible muscle protein production system (mpps): stage 1, fish." Acta Astronautica. 51 (12): 879-889. 2002.
Better Humans. In vitro meat webpage.
Bradley, David. "Lending muscle to artificial meat production." Reactive Reports. August 2005.
Deych, Rina. "In-vitro meat: How should vegetarians see in-vitro meat?" Animal Liberation Front Webpage.
Hains, Bryan; Dawn Hains, and Mark Balschweid. "Case Teaching Notes for 'Certified cultured beef: Raising beef without thecCow?' ” National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. May 18, 2005.
Hukill, Traci. "Would you eat lab-grown meat? 'There's a yuck factor' Makers say it's more ethical. Do you swallow that?" The Tyee. July 18, 2006.
New Harvest. Advancing Meat Substitutes. 2007.
Robin, Raizel. “In vitro meat.” New York Times. December 11, 2005.
Sample, Ian. "Fish fillets grow in tank." New Scientist. March 20, 2002.
Slashdot. "Lab-grown steak." December 31, 2002.
Tabarrok, Alex. "In-vitro meat and the animal welfare movement." Marginal Revolution blog. April 1, 2005.
The Tissue Culture & Art Project. "Semi-living food: Disembodied cuisine."
Wolfson, Wendy. "Lab-grown steaks nearing the menu." New Scientist. December 30, 2002.
CNN. "Doctors grow organs from patients' own cells." April 5, 2006.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2020: A New Vision - A Future for Regenerative Medicine. March 28, 2006.
Ward, Logan. "Beyond transplants: Growing organs in the lab." Popular Mechanics. November, 2006.
Ink Jet Printer
Carey, Bjorn. "Printable skin: 'Inkjet' breakthrough makes human tissue."
Carnegie Mellon University. "Team engineers muscle, bone cell differentiation with aid of ink-jet printer." Scienceblog. December 10, 2006.
Cascio, Jamais. "Bioprinters vs. the meatrix." Open the Future Blog. December 14, 2006.
CBC News. "Biological inkjet system organizes stem cells." December 11, 2006.
Choi, Charles. "Ink-jet printing creates tubes of living tissue." New Scientist. January 22, 2003.
Rawlings, Stephen R. Present and Future Bio-Medical Applications for InkJet. Albion Biotech. October 23, 2003.
Saunders, Rachel; Julie Gough; and Brian Derby. "Ink Jet printing of mammalian primary cells for tissue engineering applications." Material Research Society Symposium Proceedings. Vol. 845. 2005.
Patent WO9931222 - "Industrial scale production of meat from in vitro cell cultures."
Patent US 20060029922 "Industrial production of meat - a meat product containing in vitro produced animal cells in a three dimensional form and a method for producing the meat product." This patent also cites Patent WO9408598 - “Liver Reserve Cells.”
Patent WO9428738 - "A cooked minced meat like product and a method for the production thereof.”
Patent WO9640889 - “Method for spatially positioning cells within a three dimensional matrix.”
Patent WO9500632 - "Medium for long-term proliferation and developments of cells.”
Patent WO9718842 - "A biological material comprising an efficient culture of bone marrow stem cells partially or completely differenciated into connective tissue cells and a three-dimensional biocompatible and biodegradable matrix consisting of a hyaluronic acid derivative.“
Patent GB1433841 - "Process for production of a simulated meat product.”
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