Bioreactor Design for Cultured Pork

This fall, New Harvest was able to provide funding via a Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant to Research Fellow Jess Krieger at Kent State University. Jess is completing her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology, and is using her expertise in tissue engineering to solve some of the technical challenges of growing cultured meat.

Jess is conducting basic cultured meat research, looking at the prohibitive costs of production and finding cost-effective solutions, as well as using 2D cell culture and 3D tissue culture to inquire into how we can grow bigger and better muscle that has the taste and texture of meat harvested from livestock.

In addition to this basic research, Jess is working on a bioreactor system for culturing meat! Although we believe that in the future, cultured meat will be produced in bioreactors rather than in culture flasks, there is no bioreactor currently in existence which accommodates all of the physiological needs for growing meat in.

The bioreactor system that Jess is designing will improve nutrient and oxygen delivery to the meat cells by acting as an artificial heart that pumps artificial blood into the muscle. This system will also “exercise” the muscle to improve its development, the same way that muscle is exercised inside the body to increase its strength. The hope is that the meat cells grown in Jess’ bioreactor system will produce a bigger and better output than current known methods are able to.

A microscopic photo showing some early signs of bovine (cow) endothelial tube formation, which — it is hoped — will eventually lead to blood vessel formation if the conditions are right.
Pork myotubes, isolated by Jess!

Jess is also developing methods to isolate muscle cells from pigs. Why pigs? As Jess says, “Pigs are one of the smartest animals on the planet (along with humans, elephants, and dolphins), but also one of the most delicious (I mean, who doesn’t love bacon?). Therefore making an in vitro meat option for pork and bacon is imperative.”

When Jess sent us this microscopic photo, we thought it had to be from a sample of store bought pork, but nope — she cultured these herself in the lab!
Jess with Isha and New Harvest Research Fellows Abi, Natalie, and Marie at the 2nd International Cultured Beef Symposium, October 2016

As part of New Harvest’s network of Research Fellows, Jess has been able to collaborate with other pioneers in the field. Earlier this year, Jess travelled to North Carolina State University to work with Marie Gibbons on cell culture techniques, and she’ll be spending time at Andrew Pelling’s lab in Ottawa, Canada in 2017 with Abi Glencross.

Watch this space for the updates on Jess’ research!

Written by Jess Krieger and Erin Kim, December 5, 2016

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