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July 28, 2005


Mr. Crabby Pants

I'd love that, if only to see the Greens rolling around and foaming at the mouth. The real danger, of course, is that they could do the same with a goose and make "cruelty"-free foie gras. The Greens would have to think of a new reason to object to it, and they'd never hear the end of Dr. J's bear-baiting quip.

They could also replace the rank-and-file Greens themselves with creatures like that. How much brains does it take to shamble around holding a sign? About as much as it takes to lay eggs in a cage. In the old days, you'd have wanted zombies for that job, but modern technology offers an even better alternative: Zombies may not smell as bad as Greens, but brain-free genetically-engineered sign-carrier organisms could potentially smell better than either.

This could be BIG!


If only Mike had been able to reproduce.



Today is the last day I can still call myself a genome scientist so I should take this opportunity to point out that Mick's excellent idea has already been investigated. Although we do have the chicken genome, the approach is far simpler than genetically engineering a "sub-chicken".

NASA commissioned research into how meat could be cultured in vats en route to Mars. The principle is simple: a biopsy of, say, chicken breast tissue is transferred to a matrix and the matrix is suspended in a nutrient medium. With the right combination of conditions the chicken's cells can grow outside their original host for some time. Mechanical forces need to be applied to the cultures to encourage the tissue to grow in the right orientations and form a structure with a pleasing consistency.

Mr Crabby Pants might be interested to read that the vegetarian daughter of one of the researchers involved proposed to her father that he take a biopsy of her own muscle tissue and grow it in the same culture medium so that she could eat meat with a clear conscience.

Mick H

Hmm, interesting. I like that bit about mechanical forces needing to be applied....visions of suspended chicken legs running on the spot to give the right tone to the thigh muscles.

Mr. Crabby Pants

PG, I've seen that one in science-fiction novels, but hadn't known we might be closing in on it in real life. Did they get anywhere with it? It's a fantastic idea, the vat thing. I envision the mechanical forces as something more like a taffy-pulling machine, with skeins of flesh, but you'd still need bones to make stock of course. Throw in some fresh herbs from the hydroponic atmosphere plant, and you're in business. Except for wine. Tough to get it through liftoff intact, I'd imagine.

As for the guy's daughter... Ugh! I suppose it tastes like chicken, though. Or Spam.


> Did they get anywhere with it?

The main problem, if I remember correctly, was keeping the chicken cells alive outside their original host for a reasonable length of time. I read about it in *New Scientist*, I think, months ago. I'm pretty sure they hadn't tried the "eat-your-own-flesh" variant at that stage.

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