25 October 2011

Professor to make US$400,000 Hamburger

Professor Mark Post has been given around US$417,000 (€300,000) to make a hamburger.

But he has to do it without using meat coming from an animal and has one year to do it.

Mark Post is head of the Department of Vascular Physiology at Masstricht University in the Netherlands. He is focusing his research on growing meat in the lab rather than procuring it the natural way. "We want to turn meat production from a farming process to a factory process," he explained.

A philanthropist got in touch with Prof Post and offered to pay him to make the hamburger using his research. "It is likely the most expensive hamburger that we will ever see on this planet," said Post. In the same vein, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) has also announced a prize of $1 million for the first company or individual to bring synthetic meat to consumer shops in at least 6 US states by 2016.

Instead of using cows and other farm animals for meat, Post will grow the meat using muscle stem cells procured from the animal. Instead of using embryonic stem cells which according to him does not work, Prof Post will be using stem cells called myosatellites. These are stem cells normally used by the body to repair damaged muscle.

Video: In Vitro Meat or Meat grown in a lab:

Myosatellite cells can be extracted from a mature animal without killing it and have numerous advantages. Firstly, they are "one way" cells, in the sense that they can only become muscle cells.

Secondly, as the muscle cells proliferate they have an innate tendency to organise into muscle fibres. All that Prof Post has to do to form a strip of muscle is provide anchor points for the fibres to grow around, and the muscle forms by itself. "It's a bit like magic," he said.
Source: BBC

Professor Post wants a celebrity chef to prepare the hamburger, minced with onions and spices. "It would be great if someone like Jamie Oliver agreed to cook it for us, and a famous actress ate it...We don't really know where the taste of meat comes from," Post said. "We assume it comes from fat, but there may be other components, most of them are unknown so it's a bit of a mystery how the conditions we use during the culturing of the meat will affect the taste."

The only know person known to have tasted the meat was a TV journalist from Russia. "He just grabbed it out of the dish and stuffed it into his mouth before I could say anything," said the professor. "He said it was chewy and tasteless."

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