We don’t have jet packs, flying cars or pill-sized three-course meals, but if the Dutch have anything to say about it we’ll get our synthetic meat, dammit. Using the most appetizing area of the pig—its muscle stem cells, of course—researchers at Utrecht University are developing a way to make completely artificial pork (as opposed to the partially artificial type).
By stimulating the rapidly-multiplying cells and adding nutrients and electric currents, the researchers hope to be able to build muscular mass from what are now little more than thin cell layers. If they can sufficiently layer the tissues without the help of blood vessels and figure out how to introduce flavor (ordinarily lent by fat), it’s only a matter of time before we’re chomping down on “chops” and overdosing on “bacon.”
We’re not even going to attempt to unwrap the ethics or general creepiness of this. One interesting point, though: large-scale commercial livestock operations are often heavy polluters, and if synthetic meat could one day replace even a small percentage of the meat we consume it would have an enormous impact on everything from water resources to CO2 levels.
But once they’ve nailed all that down, they’d better get back to work on this.—Abby Seiff