Editorial 43: Tissues of the past, meat of the future
In our editorial on the 2nd of April, 2012, talking about reasoning of animal welfare and human nutrition, we wrote:
“Finally, we would like to point out that if we insist on humanize the production of protein, as an imitation of some films that attribute human feelings and behaviors to animals, we are endangering the supply of protein to a growing population. Thus, humanity will be obligated to a protein production based on the collection of synthetic protein in laboratory-farms, and all of this because the defense of a naturalistic philosophy.”
This reasoning apparently crazy, had a solid origin in Alexis Carrel’s studies (1873-1944) who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1912 by their work about vascular suture, and organ and blood vessels transplantation. For this purpose, Carrel studied the way for cultivate tissues, in the laboratory, after isolation from original organism, based on techniques described by Sidney Ringer (1882, saline isosmotic solution) and Wilhelm Roux (1885, in vitro culture of chick embryo’s marrow). During these studies he achieved cultivate cardiac muscle in a continued form.
On the 17th of January, 1912, in Rockefeller Institute of New York, he isolated a piece of cardiac muscle from a chick embryo without eclosion and cultivated it in a medium with blood plasma and avian embrionary liquid in a flask own designed. Every 48 hours doubled its size and it had to be transferred to another flask once cut. In 1946, thirty-four years later, more longer than the whole normal life of a chicken, the tissue continued growing. However, their detractors said that didn’t grew the original muscle, only the stem cells contained in the embrionary liquid, we have to recognize to Carrel the invention of how to grow “in vitro”, muscle from muscle or from stem embrionary cells.
100 years later, Carrel’s studies have their materialization in the presentation on July 2013, by Dr. Mark Post from Masstricht University, of the first burger produced with protein from bovine stem cells cultivated in laboratory. Although, Dr. Post considers that can improve it with the inclusion of adipocytes, with an improve of the texture and with a specific regulatory sanitary law; we’re sure that in a few years more, this alternative meat, will be present in the market as a complement to currently production in farm.
However, despite the presumed greenhouse effect, from the methane emitted by ruminants, from welfare considerations, defended by respectable social groups, and the raise of the protein demand, marked by international organizations, we have to consider some questions of interest:
(1) The unknown about patents about the use of stem cells to produce meat in “in vitro” cultures.
(2) The damage for the ancient avian and livestock genetic heritage, already diminished by industrialization, of modern genetic breeds in birds and pig.
(3) The increase of the possibility of amount of residues because there are not any elimination mechanism of the additives used in growth media, nor metabolites, nor wastes of cell metabolism, because there are not kidneys or livers as detoxification routes nor elimination.