Scientist trying to grow meat in a lab--to keep cows off spaceships?

At the Medical University of South Carolina, Vladimir Mironov, an M.D. and Ph.D, is trying hard to grow meat. Yes, you read that right--he's bioengineering the stuff--or at this point, animal skeletal muscle tissue--in a small lab in Charleston at the school. According to an article on the Reuters website, the National Institutes of Health and the USDA won't touch this research with a 10-foot pole. Mironov is letting the world know that his subject of study is in search of more funding, though some research is going on in the Netherlands too.

So what exactly does it take to "grow meat," and why is he doing it? And what do cows and space have to do with it?

Technically speaking, Mironov and his scientists are bathing turkey myoblasts in bovine serum on a scaffold made of chitosan, which is an element found in the exoskeletons of some crustaceans. Interestingly enough, the Reuters article notes that Nicholas Genovese, a visiting scholar, is running the meat-growing lab through a three-year grant from PETA.

Mironov's full title is the director of the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Center in the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at the university. He sees his science as a way to feed future generations by reducing the amount of resources required to create meat. The present method of raising all those tasty steer, pigs, lamb, and other critters off the land uses 30 percent of the earth, by his calculations.

These could be lab-born in the future.
These could be lab-born in the future.

Mironov would have us bioengineer meat in "carneries" (think winery or brewery) and call it "charlem," which stands for Charleston engineered meat. He and his crew are looking into ways to give the charlem the appropriate texture and taste by adding fat and a vascular system.

In the article, scholar-helper Genovese made this solid point (or the Hot Dish's favorite, at least):

Further out, if we have interplanetary exploration, people will need to produce food in space, and you can't take a cow with you.

Ain't that the truth. You ever tried getting a cow in a spaceship? By virtue of that statement alone, the Hot Dish says: Go (lab) meat!

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