Horse foetal serum used to grow artificial meat

September 2, 2011

Scientists who grew artificial meat fed pig cells horse foetal serum in the process.

However, researchers are looking to develop a synthetic alternative to the serum on the path to a more consumer-friendly product.

Dutch researcher Dr Mark Post, of Maastricht University, was reported as predicting the first synthetic sausage could be just six months away.

Post told New Scientist magazine: "I'm hopeful we can have a hamburger in a year."

Artificial meat would prevent animals going to slaughter and could also substantially reduce energy, land and water use for meat production.

However, there remain huge hurdles in bringing artificial meat to market, with no indication at this stage how consumers would take to the product.

The cost at this stage is also hugely prohibitive.

Post said the strips of meat he grew, through feeding pig cells with horse foetal serum, did not look appetising because it was white and devoid of blood. It had very little of the iron-bearing protein, myoglobin.

With current technologies and processes, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to grow enough meat for even one pattie.

Post grew the meat by taking muscle stem cells from a pig, which can be collected relatively easily without the need to kill the animal.

The cells were put in a culture and fed with horse foetal serum.

However, to date, the pig muscle stem cells multiply just 20 or 30 times in culture before they stop growing.

At this stage it is also illegal to try the meat, as it has been grown using foetal serum which could contain contaminants risky to people.

University of Amsterdam researchers are working on a synthetic alternative based on a type of water-based bacteria, which could solve the problem.