Lab-grown fish chunks could feed space travelers
(CNN) -- Cooking up ways to feed explorers on long trips in space, scientists have coaxed chunks of fish meat to grow in the laboratory.
The technique could lead to the production of copious amounts of protein for consumption without the messy and involved business of killing fish or livestock.
"This could save you having to slaughter animals for food," said Morris Benjaminson, a bioengineer and the leader of the NASA-funded project.
For the experiment, Benjaminson and colleagues sliced up muscle from large goldfish and placed them in a vat of nutrient-rich liquid. Within a week, the fish nuggets had become 16 percent bigger.
Last year, scientists in Germany had devised an artificial environment that could be used to raise fish for consumption in space.
But live animals generate biological waste, and slaughter on a spaceship would be a complicated affair. By growing just edible muscle, Benjaminson's breakthrough eliminates those steps altogether.
What about the taste? NASA hopes such quirky culinary creations make meals more palatable to deep space travelers, who would likely tire of the dull tubes of goo and freeze-dried chow that dominate contemporary space cuisine.
After frying the chunks in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, lemon and pepper, the team presented their creation to fellow staffers at Touro College in New York.
"They said it looked like fish and smelled like fish, but they didn't go as far as tasting it," Benjaminson said in a statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must approve the mutant meat before people can legally consume it, according to NewScientist.com, which first reported on it on Wednesday.
Benjaminson would like to develop an appetizing laboratory serum in which to grow pieces of fish or chicken and beef. An extract of mushroom kept samples alive for awhile, but the chunks did not gain any mass.
He acknowledges that some diners might consider the current concoction unappetizing: fetal bovine serum, which is extracted from the blood of unborn calves. The liquid is a staple food for hungry cells in lab experiments. But there are concerns that the substance might transmit mad cow disease to humans.
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