Could lab-grown meat soon be the solution to the world’s food crisis?

January 25, 2012 | Source: The Guardian

Scientists are producing small quantities of “cultured meat” in research laboratories. Mark Post of Maastricht University, one of the pioneers in the field, claims he will be able to produce a cultured burger by the end of the year.

Instead of getting meat from animals raised in pastures, he wants to grow steaks in lab conditions, directly from muscle stem cells. If successful, the technology will transform the way we produce food. “We want to turn meat production from a farming process to a factory process,” he explained.

Prof. Post is using cells called myosatellites, a form of muscle stem cell that is normally used by the body to repair damaged muscle. Myosatellite cells can be extracted from a mature animal without killing it and have numerous advantages.

Cultured meat — also known as in vitro meat or lab-grown meat — draws on the science of stem cell technology used in medicine. Stem cells are extracted from a pig, say, and converted to pig muscle cells. These muscle cells are then cultured on a scaffold with nutrients and essential vitamins and grown to desired quantities.