In Massachusetts, researchers at Tufts University are demonstrating that cultured meat can be made healthier than conventional meat by genetically engineering cow cells to also produce beta carotene. This was achieved by inserting the carotenoid pathway from golden rice.
“Cows don’t have any of the genes for producing beta carotene,” Andrew Stout, Biomedical Engineering PhD student at Tufts University, tells Vet Candy. “We engineered cow muscle cells to produce this and other phytonutrients, which in turn allows us to impart those nutritional benefits directly onto a cultured meat product in a way that is likely infeasible through animal transgenics and conventional meat production.” Beta carotene is commonly found in healthy foods such as carrots and tomatoes.
The team also found that cultured meat could be less carcinogenetic than meat sourced conventionally from animals. “We saw a reduction in lipid oxidation levels when we cooked a small pellet of these cells when they were expressing and producing this beta carotene,” Stout adds. “Because that lipid oxidation is one of the key mechanistic proposals for red and processed meats’ link to diseases such as colorectal cancer, I think that there is a pretty compelling argument to be made that this could potentially reduce that risk.”
The findings were published in the journal Metabolic Engineering.