The first steak for space missions was printed in 3D on the International Space Station ( ISS ) : produced from bovine cells without slaughter, it is suitable for human consumption. The meat printed in orbit promises to make more varied the menu of Luca Parmitano’s colleagues , especially those who will be busy on long journeys to Mars , and could allow to have even zero-impact meat for the environement on Earth.
The experiment, conducted by an Israeli company in collaboration with a Russian and two Americans, was based on a few ingredients: bovine cells aggregated in three-dimensional structures called spheroids, in turn are combined with growth factors and substances compatible with the tissues biological, the so-called bio-inks so far used in 3D printers to obtain miniature organs.
All these elements were then combined during 3D printing by magnetic forces to produce a fabric fragment . In space, 3D printing works differently than on Earth.
Thanks to the weightlessness, printing takes place more quickly. Furthermore, the biological material that constitutes the steak is not deposited in layers, as happens on Earth when mini-organs or tissue fragments, such as cartilage, are printed.
Since in space the cells are not pushed downwards, they naturally deposit on all sides, forming a roundish structure, as happens when you make a snow ball.
Furthermore, the layer upon layer printing requires a support structure, not necessary in space. The Israeli company has chosen to produce meat in orbit without slaughter to avoid the environmental costs currently linked to the production of meat, especially those related to the large amounts of water and energy used in the breeding.
Space has been the technical test-bed, to underline the fact that in the orbit the 10,000 or 15,000 liters of water used to produce a kilo of beef on Earth are certainly not available. The idea of the company is to continue working on this experiment to get in a few years to have beef steaks 3D printed in bio-farms on Earth.
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