6 January 2003
CLONED BEEF NEARING JAPANESE MARKET/LAB-GROWN STEAKS NEARING MENU
"The government is expected to lift a ban on the distribution of beef from cloned cows ...probably in the spring. If the ban is lifted, it will be the first such case in the world."
"...despite expectations of mass production of good-quality meat, somatic cell technology remains unstable, with as many as 30% of domestic animals cloned dying at birth or within 24 hours. According to the survey, 328 cows cloned from somatic cells had been born by the end of November, of which 137 survived and were being raised at the time of the survey." (item 1)
1.Most cow-cloning centres positive about sending beef to market
2.Lab-grown steaks nearing the menu
1.Most cow-cloning sites positive on shipping beef to market
Kyodo News, Japan
January 3, 2003
Most of the 40 facilities producing or raising cloned cows in Japan are positive about sending such cows to the market for human consumption, according to a Kyodo News survey released Thursday.
Among the 40 facilities polled, 33 were positive about such a move, with four saying they are ''planning shipments'' and 29 others expressing their intent to ''consider shipments.''
The survey also showed 25 institutions think it necessary to identify such beef as being from cloned cows when they are shipped to the food market.
Kyodo News conducted the survey in December on the 40 facilities nationwide, such as livestock experiment institutions that are engaged in production of somatic cell-cloned cows. All of them responded.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry released a report in August attesting to the safety of beef from cows cloned with somatic cells, saying there is no difference between beef from cloned cows and that from ordinary cows.
The government is expected to lift a ban on the distribution of beef from cloned cows after the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry compiles a report on the safety of beef from cloned cows, probably in the spring. If the ban is lifted, it will be the first such case in the world.
The first animal cloned from somatic cells was born in Britain in July 1996, Dolly the sheep. The world's first cow cloned with a somatic cell from an adult cow was born at a livestock center in Ishikawa Prefecture in July 1998.
Somatic cell cloning is thought to be capable of replicating cows with identical genetic materials such as quality meat, unlike another technique using fertilized eggs that inherits both parents' genes. Beef from cows cloned from fertilized eggs was known to be on the market back in April 1999.
But despite expectations of mass production of good-quality meat, somatic cell technology remains unstable, with as many as 30% of domestic animals cloned dying at birth or within 24 hours.
According to the survey, 328 cows cloned from somatic cells had been born by the end of November, of which 137 survived and were being raised at the time of the survey.
At the ministry's request no beef from these cows has been delivered to the market, but the survey indicates it is likely that beef from cloned cows will be brought to the market as soon as the embargo is lifted.
Two livestock experiment institutions in Okinawa and Fukui prefectures, however, said they will not consider shipping their beef from cloned cows on the grounds there is no social consensus and that the purpose of cloning cows is to develop new scientific techniques.
The livestock experiment institution in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Snow Brand Milk Products Co. said they will not ship their beef from cloned cows because they will withdraw from such studies.
Asked what conditions are required for consumers to accept such beef, 36 of the facilities said it is important to provide consumers with information about the safety of the products.
2.Lab-grown steaks nearing the menu
30 December 2002
Fancy a beefburger, but want to spare the cow? Tissue engineers experimenting with ways of growing meat in a lab dish could soon provide a solution.
The aim of the work is to develop food for astronauts on long space journeys, such as a mission to Mars. But like much other space research, what happens up there could one day become commonplace down here too - just look what happened to Velcro.
A NASA-funded team led by Morris Benjaminson, at Touro College in New York City, has already taken the first steps. The team removed chunks of live muscle tissue from freshly killed goldfish and raised them in a standard cell-culture fluid for a week. The tissue grew by as much as 14 per cent, thanks to partially differentiated "myoblast" cells in the adult muscle dividing to make more muscle cells, he says.
But growing larger pieces of muscle tissue in the lab will be tricky. The main problem is ensuring a constant supply of nutrients for the growing cell mass. In a tissue fed by a blood supply, the capillaries must be no more than 200 microns apart or else the cells in between become necrotic and the tissue dies.
Although the Touro team developed techniques for growing white and dark chicken muscle in the lab, without a blood supply the chicken meat grew for just two months before it was dead in the dish. Benjaminson is now submitting another NASA proposal to investigate mechanical or electrical methods of stimulating blood vessel growth.
However, you only need to establish a good blood supply if you want to grow thick slabs of muscle. Vladimir Mironov, director of the Shared Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston has other ideas. His team thinks the meat of the future will be a processed food closer to a sausage or hamburger.
In a detailed project proposal to NASA, he sets out how to grow cells on protein spheres suspended in growth medium. These could then be harvested and made into nuggets or patties.
His starting cells will be myoblasts, which normally live at the edges of muscle fibres and help repair the muscles if they are damaged. They are better suited than embryonic stem cells, Mironov says, because they are already part of the way down the road to forming the desired cell type, rather than being totally undifferentiated.
Unfortunately, myoblasts do have a big drawback - they cannot survive unless they can attach themselves to something, and this makes them harder to grow in a stock. To get around the problem, Mironov plans to mix the cells with tiny spheres of collagen protein and then keep them in suspension with the help of a machine called a microgravity bioreactor.
According to Mironov, the simplest meat to grow is seafood because the myoblasts can be coaxed to divide better, but "chicken is nice", he says. His dream is that we will eventually be able to grow and cook fresh sausage overnight at home in special machine, just like a home bread maker.
Food and exercise
Although processed meat is likely to become a reality before more traditional cuts, researchers have not given up the dream of growing the perfect filet mignon in the lab. Mironov, for one, has thought of other ways of getting around the blood supply problem.
He suggests using a bioreactor with a branching network of hundreds of tiny edible tubes that act like artificial capillaries to convey nutrients to the growing meat. But to satisfy those who crave the texture and mouthfeel of a good steak, you need to develop something that mimics the texture of real meat.
That means generating a complex structure of muscle and connective tissue, and to do that, the muscle myoblasts need to stretch and contract regularly. In other words, not only must you feed your steak well, you have to give it plenty of exercise too.
Herman Vandenburgh of Brown University has proposed a regime for the physical conditioning of sedentary steaks. Rather than just stimulating them with electricity or chemicals, Vandeburgh's team has developed chitin beads that change size when the temperature changes. When attached to the myoblasts, they force them to stretch and contract.
However, in a cruel setback for astronaut omnivores, NASA has rejected Mironov's proposal, apparently preferring astronauts to be vegetarians for the meantime. "People are vegetarians and vegans on Earth and they do quite well," comments Thomas Dreschel, director of NASA's Fundamental Biology Outreach Programme. "It is more efficient to grow plants and feed on them.
If astronauts really need essential amino acids, they can eat a pill."
But Douglas McFarland, at South Dakota State University in Brookings, who collaborates with Mironov, disagrees. "Animal protein is a more balanced and complex protein than a plant protein," he argues. "The body would absorb and metabolise protein from a pill too rapidly. If you eat protein, then it takes more time to digest."
Even if NASA is focusing on veggies, maybe Mironov can find funding elsewhere. "Operations like McDonald's are interested in particular cuts of meat and efficiency," says Vern Anderson, adjunct professor of ruminant nutrition at the University of North Dakota. "And you could select for leanness, or low cholesterol."
Gaining general consumer acceptance of such meat might be possible if it tasted good. But the reaction of vegetarians and animal rights campaigners is another matter. If no animal is farmed or slaughtered, and if culturing cells were more energy efficient than growing meat on the hoof, would that make it ethically acceptable?
If not, there might still be another way. One researcher recalls a student, a vegan, who asked if she could just biopsy herself, grow up a steak and eat it. If you want to eat truly victimless meat, perhaps it is time to put yourself on the menu.