from the world's big
Frankenmeat: Growing a Burger in a Petri Dish
Using human stem cells to tackle human health issues remains controversial in the United States, but a team of Dutch researchers has found a potentially crowd-pleasing application of stem cell technology: growing a hamburger in a Petri dish. The full burger isn't ready for the grill just yet, but the long-term consequences for the environment and human eating habits could be enormous.
According to an article in the Guardian, the researchers, led by Dr. Mark Post, have thus far “grown thin sheets of cow muscle measuring 3cm long, 1.5cm wide, and half a millimetre thick.” To go from this to a full burger the scientists will “take 3,000 pieces of muscle and a few hundred pieces of fatty tissue, that will be minced together and pressed into a patty.”
Is your stomach rumbling yet? Dr. Post acknowledges that the eating experience of the so-called Frankenburger might not approximate that of an honest-to-goodness chopped up cow, but insists that the technological process could be revolutionary. While the current procedure is estimated to cost about $317,000, the scientific hurdles have been cleared and the operation could scale up to reduce costs.
But what’s the advantage? The Worldwatch Institute reports that “livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.” That’s more greenhouse gases than are created by all transportation, even though cars generally soak up the public blame for pollution. With this statistic in mind, producing meat in a lab seems like a promising alternative to using up precious farmland and grain to feed massive herds of livestock, especially given that worldwide demand for meat is expected to skyrocket as the economies of China, India, and other developing nations continue to make strides.
This is the Floating University, though, so let’s get into the nitty gritty science of how to grow a hamburger in a test tube. According to the Guardian article,
Each piece of muscle is made by extracting stem cells from cow muscle tissue and growing them in containers in the laboratory. The cells are grown in a culture medium containing foetal calf serum, which contains scores of nutrients the cells need to grow.
The slivers of muscle grow between pieces of Velcro and flex and contract as they develop. To make more protein in the cells – and so improve the texture of the tissue – the scientists shock them with an electric current.
This makes the Frankeburger seem even more freakish, but the science and potential behind stem cells are staggering. To get a rough understanding of how scientists can take a cow’s stem cells and turn them into a main course, check out this clip from Douglas Melton’s FU lecture about Biomedicine, in which he explains how human stem cells can be grown into a human heart:
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- One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
- EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC.
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Researchers are using technology to make visual the complex concepts of racism, as well as its political and social consequences.
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- Focusing on issues of oppression and the ripple affect it has throughout America's political, educational, and social systems, Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn of Columbia University School of Social Work and her team developed a VR experience that gives users the opportunity to "walk a mile" in the shoes of a black man as he faces racism at three stages in his life: as a child, during adolescence, and as an adult.
- Cogburn says that the goal is to show how these "interwoven oppressions" continue to shape the world beyond our individual experiences. "I think the most important and powerful human superpower is critical consciousness," she says. "And that is the ability to think, be aware and think critically about the world and people around you...it's not so much about the interpersonal 'Do I feel bad, do I like you?'—it's more 'Do I see the world as it is? Am I thinking critically about it and engaging it?'"
President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.
A new coronavirus vaccine on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP
Medical workers draw blood from volunteers participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
A report from the New York Times raises questions over how the teletherapy startup Talkspace handles user data.