An international collaboration abroad the International Space Station (ISS) has resulted in the world’s first ever meat created in space.
The 3D printed ‘space beef’ experiment involved growing a piece of meat by mimicking a cow’s natural muscle-tissue regeneration process.
Israeli food company Aleph Farms collaborated with the Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions and two U.S.-based food companies to test this method in space.
According to Space.com, the experiment took place inside a 3D bioprinter developed by Russian laboratory 3D Bioprinting Solutions.
Bioprinting is a process in which biomaterials, like animal cells, are mixed with growth factors and the material ‘bioink,’ and ‘printed’ into a layered structure.
In ISS’ case, the resulting structure was a piece of muscle tissue.
According to Aleph Farms’ Yoav Reisler, the 3D bioprinter is equipped with a magnetic force which aggregated the cells into one small-scaled tissue, which is what meat is constructed by.
While 3D bioprinting has been used and tested on Earth for things like producing cartilage tissue, it works a little differently in space, Reisler explains.
“Maturing of bioprinted organs and tissues in zero gravity proceeds much faster than in Earth gravity conditions.”
“The tissue is being printed from all sides simultaneously, like making a snowball, while most other bioprinters create it layer by layer.”
“On Earth, the cells always fall downward. In zero gravity, they hang in space and interfere only with each other.”
“Layer by layer printing in gravity requires a support structure. Printing in zero gravity allows tissue to be created only with cell material, without any intermediate support.”
The novel experiment was carried out in September by cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka in the station’s Russian segment.
Astronauts eat meat on board that is vacuum-packed or dried on Earth but this technology could ultimately be necessary for long voyages into deep space, says veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.
“If we’re going to fly further from Earth to other planets in the solar system, we can’t take that volume of food with us,” he told AFP.
“In any case we will have to grow and produce food onboard the spaceship.”
Image and content: Pixabay/space.com/AFP via PhysOrg