A burger grown in a laboratory. Sounds like science-fiction? Well up until very recently it probably was but now the prospect of lab-grown meat appearing on our supermarket shelves is closer than ever.
Synthetic or test-tube meat involves taking a small amount of cells from a living animal and growing it into lumps of muscle tissue, which can then, in theory, be eaten as meat for human consumption.
As well avoiding killing animals, scientists believe it could help reduce the environmental impact of meat production.
The technology to create artificial meat has been around since the turn of the century — NASA once looked into developing it for their astronauts — but making an edible and commercially viable product has remained out of reach. It also remains to be seen whether consumers will accept it as an alternative to farm animal-based meat.
But now a U.S. scientist says he is closer than ever to achieving the technological breakthrough. What’s more, he believes a market for his lab-grown meat does exist.
Hungarian-born Gabor Forgacs, of the University of Missouri, is a specialist in tissue engineering, working to create replacement tissue and organs for humans. He realized the same technology could be used to engineer meat for human consumption.
He became the first scientist in the United States to produce and publicly eat some of his tissue-engineered meat, at the 2011 TEDMED conference.
His company, Modern Meadows, has already attracted a number of investors since being launched in 2011, including, says Forgacs, funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.