A company in Israel has claimed to have solved two of the biggest ones in the production of cultured meat. This has given them the capacity to produce about 500kg of meat per day. Not nearly enough, yet, to feed the world, but still a serious amount of meat.
To take production of cultured meat out of the lab and into factories of scale, some problems were left unsolved.
The first of these problems was the very expensive culture medium. A number of startups claim to have developed a cheaper (sometimes plant-based) alternative. The thinking of some startups is to simply take the lab-processes and make it bigger.
In the lab, cultured meat is usually grown in petri dishes in a batch process. Once a batch of meat cells has been grown, a new petri dish is used for the next batch. A batch process of growing cultured meat has some inherent expensiveness, though. For one, the medium needs to be thrown away and bought new every cycle, which is obviously more expensive than cleaning and reusing a continuous flow. In a living animal, there is a continuous flow.
However, a continuous flow of medium carries expensive risk. Risk, mainly in the form of pollution: bacteria, viruses or other pathogens could develop. They need to be kept out of the medium or removed somehow. A natural immune-like system might offer a solution. White blood cells are not perfect, but good at identifying and removing pathogens.
Apart from pathogens, any cell-content of the medium (like red blood cells for example) needs to be rejuvenated after some time, as it is in nature.
Rejuvenation is also the second main problem for mass production of cultured meat. Stem cells, out of which the meat cells are grown, can generally only multiply a set number of times and then they die. The process is an aspect of natural aging and in cell-speak it is called: senescence.
We do not, as yet, know exactly what the mechanism is. Senescence could be caused by teleomeres. These are small bits of DNA at the end of chromosomes. At each cell division they get a little bit shorter until no teleomere is left. Then starts the breakdown of the main DNA itself. The consequences for the cell are not good.
Intriguingly though, nature seems to have a way around this. You see, obviously, babies are born with a new set of teleomeres, otherwise they would be born old. The father produces the sperm cells at adult age from his own older cells. So therefore, some sort of mechanism for rejuvenation must exist. One theory is in the way sperm cells are generated, one other theory postulates that there is some sort of a rejuvenation event in the first week of embryonic development . Some clues in this direction have been observed too.
Refixing the teleomeres is possible. There are known techniques to repair the teleomeres. However, they usually encompass some genetic modification of the DNA or use peptides known to cause cancer.
Future Meat appear to have resolved this second issue as well.
About Future Meat Technologies:
Future Meat Technologies is a food-tech company developing a distributive platform for the cost-efficient, GMO-free production of meat directly from animal cells, without the need to raise or harvest animals. Future Meat Technologies products are delicious, healthy and safe, offering a vision of sustainable, cost-effective agriculture to meet the protein demands of future generations. The technology is based on the award-winning work of Prof. Yaakov Nahmias at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Founded in 2018, Future Meat’s headquarters are located in Rehovot, Israel. www.future-meat.com