One Australian producer of lab-grown meat has officially unveiled its new ancient appetizer that’s perfect for the new and trendy Paleo diet.
Vow, an Australian synthetic meat producer, has recently unveiled a new meatball this past Tuesday that was made entirely out of the genetic material recovered from a woolly mammoth. This meatball was created by using proteins that were synthesized from the mammoth genome and is part of the mission of the company to help battle climate change by making use of lab-grown meat. The company will unveil the creation at the NEMO science museum situated in Amsterdam this past Tuesday evening.
This meatball made of mammoth meat was created with the assistance of Ernst Wolvetang, a well-known researcher out of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Queensland. Wolvetang was able to synthesize muscle tissue from a mammoth by using a DNA sequence for myoglobin, which is the protein responsible for the pigment and flavor of red meat. He was then able to fill a few gaps found in the genetic code by using DNA taken from the African elephant, known to be a quite close relative of the mammoth. The DNA has then put in myoblasts — the precursors to muscle cells — harvested from a sheep. It was then repeated into close to 20 billion cells, more than enough to create a chunk of mammoth meat weighing about 400 grams.
“It was ridiculously easy and fast,” Wolvetang explained to The Guardian. “We did this in a couple of weeks.” Wolvetang went on to add that the original goal of the project was to create a chicken nugget, but use the meat from the dodo bird instead, but the required DNA sequences currently do not exist.
However, no one has had the chance to taste this mammoth meatball, and it is quite likely that nobody will. “We haven’t seen this protein for thousands of years,” Wolvetang stated. “So we have no idea how our immune system would react when we eat it. But if we did it again, we could certainly do it in a way that would make it more palatable to regulatory bodies.”
Wolvetang claimed that he could understand that people were wary at first of this new kind of meat: “It’s a little bit strange and new – it’s always like that at first. But from an environmental and ethical point of view, I personally think [cultivated meat] makes a lot of sense.”
The company chose the mammoth in particular so they could push a message of the dangers of climate change. “We chose the woolly mammoth because it’s a symbol of diversity loss and a symbol of climate change.” Explained Tim Noakesmith, the co-founder of Vow, to the Guardian. Wooly mammoths died out back at the end of the last Ice Age; it is not entirely known whether it was hunting by humans or the loss of their habitat that contributed to their extinction.