CH391L/S13/Synthetic Meats and Organs
Introduction to Synthetic Meats and Organs
"Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium." - Winston Churchill
Since the advent of tissue engineering, the desire to create lab-grown replacement organs accrued in order to fulfill the needs of transplant patients. When organs deteriorated due to disease or powerful drug treatment, this need arise but not always satisfied. In fact, over 100,000 patients are said to be on the recipient waiting list every year. Moreover, over 6,000 people die from the lack of a donor organ. Simply, there are enough donor organs to be given around and, for the remaining organs available, compatibility is a major issue. Therefore, in vitro organs would be proper solution because these organs can be grown tailored to each and every patient. In Vitro organs are organs cultured outside the body. In vitro organs are also known as synthetic organs. The main objective of research in synthetic organs is to maintain and direct the overall development of the organ's architecture.
Incidentally, the offshoot topic of in vitro meats received popular attention concomitantly with in vitro organs. In vitro meats currently has not prevalence in today's economy because simply there is no demand for synthetic meats. Most people who indulge in nonvegetarian food are complacent of the environmental impact and even the preparation of their meat. While, vegetarians and vegans do not support such an option due to its unavailability. Without a demand, in vitro meats research cannot find the capital to industrialize and mass produce synthetic meats. As of now (2013), an in vitro meat hamburger is estimated to cost $330,000. The only hope for this possible industry is to take advantage of the skyrocketing prices of meats, namely beef. Although the potentials of in vitro meats can solve many societal issues, in vitro meats research needs to address certain pitfalls. In vitro meats are cultured muscle tissue with the purpose of replacing dietary meat. In Vitro meats are known as synthetic meats, test tube meat, tube steak, cultured meat, hydroponic meat, vat-grown meat, victimless meat and shmeat.
Arguably, research conducted by the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) into in vitro meats paved a way to encourage the scientific community to further the progress. In 1995, the Food and Drug Admisnistration (FDA) approved the techniques to produce such in vitro meats. In 2001, NASA cultured in vitro meats from turkey cells. But, the first edible form of in vitro meat was grown from goldfish by the Tuoro Applied Bioscience Research Consortium in 2000. Apparently, the in vitro meat was grown to resemble fish fillets. In 2001, Willem van Eelen M.D., Wiete Westerhof Ph.D., and Willem van Kooten filed for a world wide patent on a process to produce in vitro meat which required a matrix collagen to be seeded with muscled cells. In 2004, Jon F. Vein also held a patent (U.S. Patent 6,835,390) for the production of in vitro meat for human consumption from muscle and fat cells. Research in synthetic meats was encouraged by People of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who offered a million dollar prize to the first company to offer in vitro meats to consumers. Without a demand for in vitro meats, in vitro meats would not make little headway; therefore, this prize that was announced in 2008 greatly fuels the race to industrialize this field. The deadline for the prize has been extended to some date in 2013.
The history of in vitro organs is not as colorful since much progress has yet to be made. In vitro organs research evolves as new techniques in tissue engineering have been uncovered. On June 9, 2011, the first synthetic organ was transplanted into a human subject with trachea cancer. A trachea composed from stem cells was placed into a 36 year old man at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. This is a huge step forward in the in vitro organs research.
In an environmental standpoint, in vitro meats would cut down the carbon emissions caused by the slaughtering cows and producing cow feed. The raising, slaughtering and disposing of cows lead to the release of carbon via methane or fossil fuels. Also, the requirement of feed forces toll on the environment which leads to the inefficient use of land. For every cow’s death, an estimated equivalent of 36.4 of carbon dioxide is produced. World meat production contribute about 20% of total carbon emissions. With in vitro meats, the need for slaughter houses and grazing lands would be diminished, focusing such lands to be placed under other roles. Even some look this supposed alternative solution skeptically, proclaiming that the mass production of in vitro meat will be counterintuitive in terms of carbon emissions.
Meat and Organ Production
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- Possibilities for an in vitro meat production system
- Meeting the demand: An estimation of potential future greenhouse gas emissions from meat production
- The role of bioreactors in tissue engineering
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