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Chicken from a lab

SCIENCE | Manufactured meat clears a key regulatory hurdle

Upside Foods

Chicken from a lab
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Lab-grown meat could soon appear on a dinner plate near you. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Nov. 16 concluded that a lab-grown chicken product from Upside Foods appears safe to eat. That makes the California-based startup the first U.S. company to complete a pre-market FDA consultation for human food made from animal cell culture.

Upside Foods’ CEO, cardiologist Uma Valeti, used his experience growing human heart cells to develop a similar technique for ­cultivating animal meat. Scientists take a sample of cells from a living animal or fertilized egg and feed them nutrients, causing the cells to divide and grow into edible meat. Cultivated meat boasts the potential to reduce foodborne disease carried by live animals and provide a protein source for those who object to animal slaughter. Upside Foods predicts its meat will also have a smaller environmental impact compared with conventional meat processing, using 77 percent less water and 62 percent less land.

The FDA’s thumbs-up is a major step forward in the regulatory process, but it doesn’t mean Upside can start selling its chicken product quite yet: The startup must also receive approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Upside claims its 53,000-square-foot facility in Emeryville, Calif., can produce 50,000 pounds of meat per year. According to the National Chicken Council, some 60 billion pounds of chicken were produced in the United States in 2021, so Upside’s competition may be stiff.

Venice mallow hibiscus

Venice mallow hibiscus Alamy

Inside the secret lives of flowers

Why do bees like flowers? In part, they are attracted to the “halo” of blue and ultraviolet light flower petals emit. The cuticle, a protective layer on the petal’s surface, develops microscopic ridges that catch and reflect light, creating iridescence that lures the bees. But until a recent study by a University of Cambridge team, scientists didn’t know how these ridges form.

Working with a Venice mallow hibiscus, the researchers found that the ridge-bearing cuticle had a special chemical makeup—more dihydroxy-palmitic acid and waxes and fewer phenolic compounds than that found in smooth cuticle. By altering cuticle chemistry in a model hibiscus species, they were able to induce ridge growth. The findings, published Nov. 23 in Current Biology, debunk a widely accepted hypothesis that expansion of the cuticle’s cells and thickness are responsible for ridge formation. —H.F.

Heather Frank

Heather is a science correspondent for WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the University of Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University. She has worked in both food and chemical product development, and currently works as a research chemist. Heather resides with her family in Pittsburgh, Pa.


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