Thursday, June 08, 2006

Scientists Grow Meat in Petri Dish

Face it, eating meat is a dirty habit. We're killing animals to get the same protein we could from a bowl of beans and rice, over-indulging in meat can lead to all sorts of health complication, meat can carry some of the most serious food-borne illnesses (like Mad Cow disease and bird flu) and the carnivore's diet is harder on the environment than a vegetarian's.

But science is working on solutions. For example, scientists are tinkering with the genes of pigs so that someday, pork chops may be rich in heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. And in an even more bizarre turn, some scientists are experimenting with growing meat in Petri dishes.

According to
a report in the LA Times, scientists have been trying to grow meat in a lab dish since 1912. Back then, "French scientist Alexis Carrel placed chicken heart tissue in a flask of nutrients. The muscle cells grew for more than 30 years -- outliving Carrel himself," reported the Times.

Now, scientists use a "starter" like embryonic myoblasts (a type of stem cell), and then nourish it with "a fluid containing a combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, sugars, salts and growth factors," read the Times report.

When will the first test tube meats show up in stores? The most ambitious estimates are 2011. But one professor told the Times, "It'll never be practical," for technical and financial reasons. As of now, it costs between $1000 and $5000 per pound to create meat in a Petri dish.

However, if scientists can get the costs down, "McDonald's breakfast sausage patty could protect you from heart disease instead of giving you heart disease," one public health expert told the Times.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.