Stem cell study opens door to manufactured cell cultured meat

Stem cell study opens door to manufactured cell cultured meat

Scientists have obtained for the first time stem cells that grow under chemically defined conditions, which they say will pave the way for manufacturing cell cultured meat.

Stem cells from livestock
Stem cells obtained from livestock can be grown under chemically defined conditions.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences, together with colleagues at the Universities of Cambridge, Exeter, Tokyo and Meiji (Japan), have developed stem cell lines from pigs, sheep and cattle embryos grown without the need for serum, feeder cells or antibiotics.

The chemically defined conditions are growth medium suitable for the in vitro cell culture of animal cells in which all of the chemical components are known. Standard cell culture media commonly consist of a basal medium supplemented with animal serum (such as fetal bovine serum, FBS) as a source of nutrients and other ill-defined factors. 

There are technical disadvantages to using serum, which include its undefined nature, composition variability from one batch to the next and the risk of contamination. The researchers say the chemically defined approach offers greater consistency and safety, which makes it the ideal solution for the manufacture of laboratory grown food products.

Professor Ramiro Alberio, who led the research, said: “The ability to derive and maintain livestock stem cells under chemically defined conditions paves the way for the development of novel food products, such as cultured meat. The cell lines we developed are a step change from previous models as they have the unique ability to permanently grow to make muscle and fat.”

Further potential for gene editing

Because the cells can be genetically manipulated using the Crisp/Cas9 gene editing tool, the technology also offers opportunities for expanded research into gene editing animals to address issues such as productivity, adaptation to climate change and modification of diets.

“Gene editing in this way makes modifications that could happen naturally  over a long time but in a selective and rapid manner to customise specific traits,” Prof Alberio said. “This can accelerate the pace of genetic selection of livestock and cultured meat to improve productivity and creation of healthier foods. With a growing population to feed in a changing climate, finding reliable and sustainable food is vital. This research offers potential solutions that the food industry could use at scale.”

The research – ‘Pluripotent stem cells related to embryonic disc exhibit common self-renewal requirements in diverse livestock species’ – has been published in the journal Development and was funded by BBSRC, EU (ERC), MRC and Wellcome Trust.

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