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Vow Showcases Meatball Produced from Extinct Woolly Mammoth DNA

Published on
Mar 29, 2023
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During a presentation at Nemo, a science museum in the Netherlands, Australian cell-based meat company Vow revealed a woolly mammoth meatball using DNA from the extinct animal species.

Vow said the “iconic” meatball was chosen because of its popularity worldwide “for centuries” and because the woolly mammoth is a symbol of loss and climate change.

Vow teamed up with Professor Ernst Wolvetang, at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Queensland, to develop the mammoth muscle protein. Wolvetang commented that it “was ridiculously easy and fast,” and took only a couple of weeks.

The process was done by taking the DNA sequence for mammoth myoglobin, a key muscle protein in giving meat its flavor, and filling in the few gaps using African elephant DNA. The elephant and mammoth DNA sequence was then placed in myoblast stem cells from a sheep, which replicated to grow to the 20 billion cells to create the world's first woolly mammoth meatball.

According to Vow’s website, the meatball is not yet ready for human consumption. Due to the fact that it is an extinct protein, “we have no idea how our immune system would react when we eat it” Wolvetang said. Commenting further that if it was done again, “we could certainly do it in a way that would make it more palatable to regulatory bodies.”

Wolvetang said he could understand people initially being wary of such meat: “It’s a little bit strange and new – it’s always like that at first. But from an environmental and ethical point of view, I personally think [cultivated meat] makes a lot of sense.”

This trailblazing work opens up many new possibilities, including the future production of genuine animal meat from other extinct species - from varying evolutionary timelines - and the opportunity to produce meat products from animals that are not feasible to farm as livestock.

About Vow

Vow is an Australian cell-based food company that was founded in 2019. The company uses cellular agriculture technology to create meat and other animal products without the need for traditional farming practices. Vow's goal is to create a more sustainable and ethical food system by reducing the environmental impact of animal agriculture and improving animal welfare.

Vow's technology involves taking a small sample of animal cells and growing them in a lab, using a nutrient-rich solution to help the cells grow into muscle tissue. The resulting meat products are identical to traditional meat in terms of taste, texture, and nutritional value, but are produced in a much more sustainable and ethical way.

Vow has already created a range of unique and innovative meat products, such as kangaroo, alpaca, and even crocodile meat. The company has also partnered with leading food companies to develop new cell-based meat products and explore the potential of this emerging industry.

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