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Cellular agriculture combines disciplines such as biotechnology, tissue engineering, molecular biology, and synthetic biology to design new methods of producing proteins, fats, and tissues that would otherwise come from traditional agriculture.
Cellular agriculture most often refers to the creation of animal products such as meat, milk, and eggs, produced in cell culture rather than raising and slaughtering farmed livestock. The most well known cellular agriculture concept is cultured meat.
- 1 History
- 2 Research tools
- 3 Applications
- 4 Media and Publications
- 5 Current Research
- 6 Academic Programs
- 7 Conferences
- 8 External links
- 9 References
Although cellular agriculture is a nascent scientific discipline, cellular agriculture products were first commercialized in the early 20th century with insulin and rennet.
In 1922, Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and James Collip treated the first diabetic patient with an insulin injection, which was originally collected from the ground-up pancreases of pigs or cattle. In 1978, Arthur Riggs, Keiichi Itakura, and Herbert Boyer inserted the gene carrying the blueprints for human insulin into an E. coli bacteria, prompting the bacteria to make insulin identical to the insulin made by humans. The vast majority of insulin currently used worldwide is now biosynthetic recombinant "human" insulin engineered by yeast or bacteria.
On March 24, 1990, the FDA approved a bacteria that had been genetically engineered to produce rennet, making it the first genetically engineered product for food. Rennet is a mixture of enzymes that turns milk into curds and whey in cheesemaking. Traditionally, rennet is extracted from the inner lining of the fourth stomach of calves. Today, the majority of cheesemaking uses rennet enzymes from genetically engineered bacteria, fungi, or yeasts because it is more pure and consistent and less expensive than animal-derived rennet.
Winston Churchill also predicted the advent of a mainstream cellular agriculture paradigm of meat production in his 1931 essay, Fifty Years Hence.
"Fifty years hence...we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."
In 2004, Jason Matheny founded New Harvest which was first a cultured meat advocacy organization but whose mission is now to "accelerate breakthroughs in cellular agriculture." New Harvest is the only organization focused exclusively on advancing the field of cellular agriculture, and are funding the first cellular agriculture PhD at Tufts University.
Since 2014, IndieBio, a synthetic biology accelerator in San Francisco, has incubated several cellular agriculture startups, hosting Muufri (making milk from cell culture), Clara Foods (making egg whites from cell culture), Gelzen (making gelatin from bacteria and yeast), Afineur (making cultured coffee beans) and Pembient (biofabricating rhino horn). Muufri and Clara Foods were both launched by New Harvest.
In 2015, Mercy for Animals created a sister organization called Good Food Institute, which promotes cellular agriculture meat and dairy alternatives in addition to plant-based options.
In July 13, 2016, New Harvest hosted the world's first international conference on cellular agriculture in San Francisco, California. The day after the conference, New Harvest hosted the first closed-door workshop for industry, academic and government stakeholders in cellular agriculture.
Several key research tools are at the foundation of research in cellular agriculture.
A fundamental missing piece in the advancement of cultured meat is the availability of the appropriate cellular materials. While some methods and protocols from human and mouse cell culture may apply to agricultural cellular materials, it has become clear that most do not. This is evidenced by the fact that established protocols for creating human and mouse embryonic stem cells have not succeeded in establishing ungulate embryonic stem cell lines.
The ideal criteria for cell lines for the purpose of cultured meat production include: immortality, high proliferative ability, surface independence, serum independence, and tissue-forming ability. The specific cell types most suitable for cellular agriculture are likely to differ from species to species.
Today the status quo for growing animal tissue in culture involves the use of fetal bovine serum (FBS). FBS is a blood product extracted from fetal calves. This product supplies cells with nutrients and stimulating growth factors, but is unsustainable and resource-heavy to produce, with large batch-to-batch variation.
After the creation of the cell lines, efforts to remove serum from the growth media are key to the advancement of cellular agriculture as fetal bovine serum has been the target of most criticisms of cellular agriculture and cultured meat production. It is likely that two different media formulations will be required for each cell type: a proliferation media, for growth, and a differentiation media, for maturation.
As biotechnological processes are scaled, experiments start to become increasingly expensive, as bioreactors of increasing volume will have to be created. Each increase in size will require a re-optimization of various parameters such as unit operations, fluid dynamics, mass transfer and reaction kinetics.
For cells to form tissue, it is helpful for a material scaffold to be added to provide structure. Scaffolds are crucial for cells to form tissues larger than 100 µm across. An ideal scaffold must be non-toxic for the cells, edible, and allow for the flow of nutrients and oxygen. It must also be cheap and easy to produce on a large scale without the need for animals.
3D tissue systems
The final phase for creating cultured meat involves bringing together all the previous pieces of research to create large (>100 µm in diameter) pieces of tissue that can be made of mass-produced cells without the need of serum, where the scaffold is suitable for cells and humans.
Cellular agriculture is a scientific field that designs new mechanisms to produce existing agriculture products. While the majority of discussion has been around food applications, particular cultured meat, cellular agriculture can be used to create any kind of agricultural product, including those that never involved animals to begin with, like Gingko Biowork's fragrances.
Over the last several years, several cellular agriculture start-ups have been created applying cellular agriculture to make a number of agricultural products and consumables.
- Impossible Foods
- Memphis Meats
- Mosa Meat
- Shojinmeat Project
- Shojinmeat Project is a Japanese biohacker community developing cultured meat.
- Balletic Foods
- Balletic Foods is clean meat technology startup based in Silicon Valley, California.
- Aleph Farms
- Aleph Farms offers a “clean meat” without the need to grow and kill a cow to eat it.
- Clara Foods
Horseshoe Crab Blood
- Sothic Bioscience
- Sothic Bioscience is a Cork-based startup incubated by IndieBio in 2015. Sothic Bioscience is building a platform for biosynthetic horseshoe crab blood production. Horseshoe crab blood contains limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), which is the gold standard in validating any medical equipment and medication.
- Finless Foods
- Wild Type
- Gingko Bioworks
- Bolt Threads
- Bolt Thread is a California-based company creating engineered silk fibers based on proteins found in spider silk that can be produced at commercial scale. Bolt examines the DNA of spiders and then replicates those genetic sequences in other ingredients to create a similar silk fiber. Bolt’s silk is made primarily of sugar, water, salts, and yeast, which combined forms a liquid silk protein. Through a process called wet spinning, this liquid is spun into fiber, similar to the way fibers like acrylic and rayon are made.
- Modern Meadow
- Wild Earth
Media and Publications
- Cultured Meat and Future Food is a podcast about clean meat and future food technologies hosted by Alex Shirazi, a mobile User Experience Designer based in Menlo Park, California, whose current projects focus around retail technology. The podcast features interviews with industry professionals from startups, investors, and non-profits working on cellular agriculture.
New Harvest Cultured Tissue Fellowship at Tufts University
A joint program between New Harvest and the Tissue Engineering Research Center (TERC), an NIH-supported initiative established in 2004 to advance tissue engineering. The fellowship program offers funding for Masters and PhD students at Tufts university who are interested in bioengineering tunable structures, mechanics, and biology into 3D tissue systems related to their utility as foods.
New Harvest brings together pioneers in the cellular agriculture and new, interested parties from industry and academia to share relevant learnings for cellular agriculture's path moving forward.
The inaugural GFI conference is an event focused on accelerating the commercialization of plant-based and clean meat.
The Cultured Meat Symposium is a conference held in Silicon Valley highlighting top industry insights of the clean meat revolution.
- "A Closer Look at Cellular Agriculture and the Processes Defining It - AgFunderNews". 2016-07-05. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- Mattick, CS (January 2018). "Cellular agriculture: The coming revolution in food production". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 74 (1): 32–35. doi:10.1080/00963402.2017.1413059. PMID 10659856.
- "About". Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "The History of Insulin".
- "First Successful Laboratory Production of Human Insulin Announced". News Release. 1978-09-06 – via Genetech.
- Aggarwal, SR (December 2012). "What's fueling the biotech engine". Nature Biotechnology. 30: 1191–7. doi:10.1038/nbt.2437. PMID 23222785.
- "FDA approves 1st genetically engineered product for food". 1990-03-24.
- "Case Studies: Chymosin". Archived from the original on 2016-05-22.
- "Fifty Years Hence | Teaching American History". teachingamericanhistory.org. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Cellular Agriculture at Tufts University".
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- Harvest, New (2016-08-04). "Notes from the 2016 Cellular Agriculture Innovators' Workshop". Medium. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- Keefer, CL; Pant, D; Blomberg, L; Talbot, NC (2007). "Challenges and prospects for the establishment of embryonic stem cells of domesticated ungulates". Animal Reproduction Science. 98: 147–68. doi:10.1016/j.anireprosci.2006.10.009. PMID 17097839.
- Talbot, NC; Le Ann, Blomberg (2008). "The pursuit of ES cell lines of domesticated ungulates". Stem Cell Rev. 4: 235–54. doi:10.1007/s12015-008-9026-0. PMID 18612851.
- "Embryonic Stem Cells and Fetal Developmental Models". Fetal Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine: 81–99. 2016. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-3483-6_5.
- Cao, S; Wang, F; Liu, L (2013). "Isolation and culture of bovine embryonic stem cells". Epiblast Stem Cells. 1074: 111–23. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-628-3_9. PMID 23975809.
- Gandolfi, F; Pennarossa, G; Maffei, S; Brevini, T (2012). "Why is it so difficult to derive pluripotent stem cells in domestic ungulates?". Reprod Domest Anim. 47 Suppl 5: 11–7. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0531.2012.02106.x. PMID 22913556.
- Van der Valk, J (2010). "Optimization of chemically defined cell culture media--replacing fetal bovine serum in mammalian in vitro methods". Toxicol In Vitro. 24: 1053–63. doi:10.1016/j.tiv.2010.03.016. PMID 20362047.
- Agapakis, Christina (2012). "Steak of the Art: The Fatal Flaws of In Vitro Meat". Discover Magazine.
- "Impossible Foods".
- "SuperMeat - REAL meat, without harming animals".
- "SuperMeat – 100% Meat, 0% Animal Suffering".
- "Memphis Meats is making lab-grown meatballs". Business Insider.
- "Memphis Meats".
- Bunge, Jacob (February 1, 2016). "Sizzling Steaks May Soon Be Lab-Grown". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Default Parallels Plesk Panel Page". www.shojinmeat.com.
- "Lab Grown and Cultured Meat - Balletic Foods". www.balleticfoods.com.
- "ALEPH FARMS". ALEPH FARMS.
- "Muufri Milk".
- "Perfect Day: All the dairy you love, with none of the dairy cows". Perfect Day.
- "FAQs - Perfect Day".
- "Clara Foods: egg whites without hens".
- "Gelzen Inc. – Making sustainable, animal-free gelatin". December 2, 2015.
- "Geltor". www.gelzen.com.
- "Home". AFINEUR.
- "Sothic Bioscience: Protecting human lives while preserving an ancient species".
- [dead link]
- "Wild Type raises $3.5M to reinvent meat for the 21st century".
- "Home". Wild Type.
- "The Organism Company - Ginkgo Bioworks". Ginkgo Bioworks.
- "Artificial "Spiber" silk is tougher than Kevlar".
- "Spiber株式会社". Spiber株式会社.
- "Bolt Threads". boltthreads.com.
- Rao, Leena (May 11, 2016). "Bolt Threads Will Bring Its Spider Silk Fabric to Patagonia". Fortune.
- "Modern Meadow – Leather re-imagined". www.modernmeadow.com.
- "Clean Meat - The Bestselling Book by Paul Shapiro". cleanmeat.com.
- "Clean Meat". 2 January 2018.
- Cultured Meat Future Food (8 April 2018). "Cultured Meat and Future Food Podcast Episode 03: Paul Shapiro" – via YouTube.
- "Cultured Meat and Future Food". cleanmeatpodcast.com.
- "Cultured Meat Future Food". YouTube.
- "Grant Opportunities, New Harvest". new-harvest.org. New Harvest. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- "New Harvest".
- "Good Food Conference 2018". www.goodfoodconference.com.