Skip to Content

Lab Meat Needs Exercise

Scientists grow soggy pork protein in cells.
December 1, 2009

While growing hamburgers in a vat, much like yogurt, may sound like the stuff of science fiction, the development of in-vitro or cultured meat–animal proteins grown in cell culture rather than in intact organisms–is actually an expanding area of research. (The first annual In Vitro Meat symposium was held in Norway last year.)

Proponents say that culturing meat is much less costly to the environment than raising livestock, an issue that will become increasingly important as the world’s population–and meat consumption–continue to grow.

Scientists at Eindhoven University in Holland have now created a slurry of cell-grown pork protein that they say could be turned into sausages and other products in just a few years. According to an article in the Times of London,

They initially extracted cells from the muscle of a live pig. Called myoblasts, these cells are programmed to grow into muscle and repair damage in animals.The cells were then incubated in a solution containing nutrients to encourage them to multiply indefinitely. This nutritious “broth” is derived from the blood products of animal foetuses, although the intention is to come up with a synthetic solution.The result was sticky muscle tissue that requires exercise, like human muscles, to turn it into a tougher steak-like consistency.

The project, which is backed by a sausage manufacturer and has received £2m from the Dutch government, is seeking additional public funds to improve the technology.

Thanks to safety regulations, scientists haven’t yet tasted the stuff. But they aim to improve the texture by “training” it. “What we have at the moment is rather like wasted muscle tissue,” Mark Post, professor of physiology at Eindhoven University, who is leading the Dutch government-funded research, told the Times. “We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there. This product will be good for the environment and will reduce animal suffering. If it feels and tastes like meat, people will buy it.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.