The lyrics to “Hey Diddle Diddle” may finally need to be updated because lab-grown meat has been produced in space for the first time ever. And while using a “3D tissue platform” to grow a batch of bovine cells aboard the International Space Station (ISS) isn’t exactly a real-life version of the cow jumping over the Moon, it’s probably the closest we’re going to get for a while so let’s enjoy it. Both the precedent and the new kind of food.
While it may seem like Aleph Farms is looking to corner the theoretical interplanetary space vessel/Martian colony meat market, the goal of producing “beef” in even the harshest conditions is really meant to signal the viability of this technology working here on Earth. The planet is running out of the resources necessary for breeding domesticated cattle — according to multiple sources — and finding a way to sustainably produce meat will doubtlessly be an important achievement in the search for a method to maintain creature comforts without destroying the worldwide ecosystem.
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As far as the tech is concerned, Aleph Farms definitely has one foot in the future. (No wonder the company made its announcement using the famous Neil Armstrong quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.) The company grows the meat by taking a small amount of cells from an animal via biopsy and then places it in a “broth of nutrients.” The cells subsequently multiply and form the same type of edible tissue that’s naturally produced in the animal’s body.
The details of the process are mad sci-fi to say the least. Not only are the edible tissue cells grown in the lab, but different types of cells, including fat cells, blood cells, and muscle cells, are all grown together, simultaneously. The amalgam of various cell types is also grown on a scaffold, which allows them to form a “three dimensional muscle tissue.” The Wikipedia page for Aleph Farms says that “a replicated blood vessel network” also needs to be created in order to grow the meat, which sounds both astounding and gag-inducing.
What do you think of this meat grown aboard the International Space Station? Are you excited to masticate some artificial tissues, or are you thinking you’ll just become a vegetarian to help save the planet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Feature image: NASA