Muscle tssue sample. Source: 3D Bioprinting SolutionsMuscle tssue sample. Source: 3D Bioprinting SolutionsAstronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have created lab-grown meat in space, according to reports.

Israeli food company, Aleph Farms, supplied astronauts aboard the ISS with the animal cells to 3D print the lab-grown meat. Led by cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, the team conducted the artificial meat experiments by replicating the muscle-tissue regeneration process that naturally occurs within cows. The team produced a small section of muscle tissue inside a 3D bioprinter supplied by Russian biotechnological company 3D Bioprinting Solutions. Once combined in the bioprinter with bio-ink and nutrients, the cells multiplied and grew connective tissue. The result was artificial meat that resembled real beef. The bioprinter was also used to replicate fish and rabbit tissue.

To print the muscle tissue, a magnetic force within the 3D bioprinter aggregated the cells into the tissue. Although 3D bioprinting has been achieved on Earth, experts suggest that this is the first time the meat has been grown in space. The 3D printing process works differently in space, where maturation of the tissue happens more rapidly in zero gravity, than on Earth.

The process has implications for lab-grown meat both in space and on Earth. In space, the process could be used to create food for astronauts on lengthy missions and under hostile conditions. Meanwhile, the process on Earth could help alleviate expected future food shortages while offering an environmentally friendly way to produce meat that doesn’t require using significant amounts of water and land. Likewise, the process is humane.

Although the artificial meat is not yet commercially available, Aleph Farms expects it to be in a matter of three or four years.

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