Cultured meat and cellular agriculture
Consistent cell count and viability for development and manufacturing
What is cultured meat?
Cultured meat, also commonly called cell-based or cultivated meat, is a product of cellular agriculture produced through cell culture and tissue engineering techniques. Whereas traditional meat production involves rearing animals for the harvesting of muscle and fat tissue, cultured meat starts by isolating the animal’s muscle or fat stem cells.
Why cultured meat?
Firstly, traditional meat production has a significant environmental cost. The United Nations has reported that the livestock sector generates 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, requiring 30% of the Earth’s land space, and 8% of the global supply of freshwater (1).
Animals require up to 97% of the caloric intake to maintain their bodies and produce non-edible tissues, making animal-derived food products less efficient than their cultured meat counterparts (1).
Viral outbreaks originating from the crowded factory farm conditions, such as swine and avian flu (2) have been well documented.
Relying on excessive antibiotic use significantly contributes to the evolution of antibiotic resistance, another major global public health concern.
With cultured meat production, the ethical concerns surrounding animal welfare such as overcrowding, slaughter procedures and the presence of animal illnesses without veterinary care or euthanasia, are completely avoided.
An example of the cultured meat production process
The challenges in cultured meat production
Though gaining popularity, the ‘clean meat’ industry is not without challenges, including the need to make processes more economically viable and to manufacture products with structure closer to animal tissue.
Scaling up operations is a major hurdle that growing cultured meat manufacturers can also experience. Some of the efficiency optimizations will require selecting and developing cell lines that grow at a fast rate and require less media, while being able to grow well in serum-free culture media.
The culture scaffolding also requires optimization to provide the most efficient nutrient/media flow and cell stacking possible.
The importance of cell counting in cultured meat production
Early stage research and development requires the use of small-scale culture vessels such as flasks and plates. In these vessels, cells will need to be counted regularly and reliably to optimize large scale expansion.
Scaling-up using bioreactors, scaffolds and microcarriers requires accurate, consistent, and reliable cell count and viability measurements at initial seeding densities, throughout the expansion process, and for the final product. Cell counting with aggregated cells or cells that have been grown on microcarriers can be challenging and time-consuming due to the need to dissociate the samples prior to measurement.
Microcarriers offer a convenient method for growing adherent cells in bioreactors
Resolving these challenges
Whether your cells grow in a bioreactor or in a culture flask, the NucleoCounter® NC-202™ automated cell counter has specific assays designed for counting your exact sample type.
The instrument’s patented consumable, the Via2-Cassette™, has a built-in pipette and contains the dyes needed to stain for total cell count and viability.
For small scale culture such as in flasks and plates, the Via2-Cassette™ is used in one step with the ‘Viability and Cell Count Assay’ to obtain a reliable and accurate cell count in under one minute.
Counting cells on microcarriers
The NC-202™ and Via2-Cassette™ can also count cells grown on microcarriers without the need to detach cells through lengthy scrapping and/or digestion methods.
Instead, with the addition of a short lysis step, you can obtain a reliable and accurate total cell count and viability measurement from your sample in only a few minutes. This is achieved by using the specialized yet simple ‘Viability and Cell Count Assay for cells grown on microcarriers’ application.
(1) Ben-Ayre, T. (18 June 2019). “Tissue Engineering for Clean Meat Production”. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00046
(2) Greger, M. (11 Oct 2008). “The Human/Animal Interface: Emergence and Resurgence of Zoonotic Infectious Diseases”. Critical Reviews in Microbiology, 33:4, 243-299, DOI: 10.1080/10408410701647594