When will scientists grow meat in a petri dish?

May 18, 2011 | Source: Scientific American

Meat grown in bioreactors using stem cells — instead of raised on farms — could help alleviate planetary stress, researchers at Oxford University and Utrecht University suggest.

In theory, an in vitro meat factory would work something like this: First, technicians isolate embryonic or adult stem cells from a pig, cow, chicken or other animal and grow those cells in bioreactors, using a culture derived from plants.

The stem cells divide and redivide for months. Technicians next instruct the cells to differentiate into muscle (rather than, say, bone or brain cells). Finally, the muscle cells are “bulked up.”

Some see social acceptance (the “yuk” factor) as the biggest barrier to producing in vitro meat on a commercial scale. “It sounds scary,” says Oxford’s Hanna Tuomisto. “Yet it’s basically the same stuff: muscle cells. It’s just produced differently.”