Josh maintains a diet which perfectly fulfills the typical stereotype of American – he has bacon for breakfast, fast food burger with double layers of cheese and beef for lunch, and a giant 18 inch pizza for dinner. It wouldn’t be surprised that Josh is one of the persons suffer in obesity, same as other 78.6 million people in U.S.
However, can you imagine one day if the problem of obesity will be eternally solved? Can you imagined one day where you can consume as much meat as you want, regardless of the potential risk of suffering from atherosclerosis and other annoying harmful heart disease? With the developing of in vitro meat production system (IMPS), which is also known as artificial meat, the day wouldn’t be too far.
Different from the well-known vegetarian meat, the one which is made out of plants’ tissues and considered as “fake meat” by most of the meat-lovers, IMPS is a technology which cultures the meat from the real animal muscle cells. IMPS has been studied by scientists early from 1999, leading by the research team of Van Eelen, van Kooten, & Westerhof (Dater & Betti 2010). They proposed growth of myocyte, common known as muscle cells, on a collagen meshwork.
However, the pioneer trial is a failure due to the lack of structure of native muscle tissue, and therefore could only be put towards processed meat products, greatly limiting the application. To deal with this, Van Eelen suggested layering several sheets of myocyte culture to create a
three-dimensional meat product (Dater & Betti 2010). However, this is only the tip of iceberg. The recent research of IMPS method is focusing on the two following topics: the type of cells which are used for proliferation, and the ideal growth condition for the cells to proliferate.
The first and foremost important issue will be “what kinds of cells are suitable for producing the artificial meat.” Above we mentioned myocyte as the source, however this kind of cells are actually restricted by its limited proliferation ability. To deal with this, Edelman and his research team made the proposal of the cell types named ES cells and myosatellite cells. ES cells are the cells which have the unlimited proliferation ability. However, even after past two decades of research, the scientists remain to have difficulties on differentiating those ES cells into the appropriate muscle cells. The alternative option is myosatellite cells, they are the cells used for repair the damaged muscle cells, therefore they contain the property much similar to our target muscle cells, in comparison to ES cells. However, unfortunately, myosatellite cells have the disadvantages including their rare occurrence in animal body, and their limited regenerative potential (Dater & Betti 2010).
Beyond the dilemma of whether choosing ES cells or myosatellite cells as the cell resource, culture condition is also an important issue on developing IMPS. The culture condition is further considered in two aspects: the growth chamber and the growth medium. Scaffold mechanisms are considered in the highest priority to act as growth chamber, especially the one with capability of providing large area for cells for attachment and growth, also the flexibility for cells to occur contraction. In conclusion, the one which is capable for perfectly mimicking the in body condition should be prevail. The other concern is methods for the removal of growth chamber, in consideration of its inedibility. Normally, scientists execute the removal enzymatically or mechanically, however both ways will result in cells damaging. Fortunately, Lam, Huang, Birla
and Takayama have established a method for detaching cells from growth chamber using a method called biodegrading, to overcome the obstacle (Dater & Betti 2010).
The most difficult obstacle to be overcome shall be the composition of growth medium. The according functions are promoting and supporting of the cell growth, and growth chamber should contain the features of being edible, affordable, and available to be provided in large quantity. Scientists have tested a series of possible substances. Eventually Benjaminson and his team found the best suitability of mushroom extracts, to partially fulfill the desired features of growth chamber, however the potential risks regarding to the allergens still remains (Dater & Betti 2010).
Until now, we have mentioned the problems and solutions in the procedure of developing IMPS method. Although apparently there are still many obstacles remain, but the realization of IMPS method has gradually become visible. But, before you are too early to be happy to order three jumbo burgers right way, always remember to put the level of your cholesterol in to account!
1. Datar I, Betti M. Possibilities for an in vitro meat production system. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies. 2010;11(1):13-22.