Mark Post on clean meat: "More research is needed on serum-free alternatives"


Mark Post on clean meat: "More research is needed on serum-free alternatives"

6 February 2020
For ethical and financial reasons, fetal serum has been banned from start-ups active in cultivated meat for the benefit of vitamins and amino acids.

One of the challenges of cultured meat is to develop a nutritious solution for cell growth. In scientific and medical research, calf or horse serum has been used for decades. An unethical practice and rejected by starters of cultured meat. Also, serum-free alternatives are being sought to produce meat grown on a large scale. This dynamic also benefits the medical sector, since it will soon be able to do without animal serum.

Alternatives are now commercially available, but are they good enough for farmed meat? Mark Post, the Dutch scientist who made the first burger from cultured meat in 2013, has done research on this subject. His teams tested seven commercially available alternatives. For six days, the researchers monitored the growth of the cells, notably by taking microscope photos to study the cells and their morphology in more detail. Three animal-free supplements that help promote cell growth have also been tested. Researchers also studied the presence and absence of antibiotics to determine if antibiotics are useful and necessary to keep cell cultures safe from harmful bacteria.

What are the results? Three of the seven commercially available alternatives have resulted in significant cell growth. But not with the same efficiency as animal serum, which is particularly nutritious. The supplements tested proved to be insufficient: they did not stimulate cell growth. According to team of the Mark Post, the development of serum-free alternatives is on the right track, but there is still some room before bringing them to the level of calf serum.