Cell Ag 1/2
Cellular Agriculture in a Meatcell
I love food, emerging tech, and problems. Good thing (and really bad thing) that food is a big problem, and has its own emerging sector of the -tech suffix, called foodtech. There’s all sorts of cool stuff available, like bioprinting, aquaculture, hydroponics, and more!
But there’s this extraordinary topic that we’re going to need sometime soon. If you haven’t read my previous article on food computers and why I’m building them, then you should definitely read it:
Anyway, the point is that we’re in two food crises: 25% of all greenhouse gas is food.
- Land 1.5 times the size of the European Union could have been saved if we only produced meat for nutritional requisites
- The cow is only a 3% efficient technology when it comes to food
- Milk has made over 18 refrigerators full of water polluted (PER GLASS)
- Environmental Destruction
- 1/4 of the world’s biggest, most immediate problem
- Shelf life is pretty bad
- Everyone’s not going to just become vegan
And then, we have the looming hunger crises.
- Billions hungry
- Billions dying
- Even more doing bad agricultural practices
- Loosing crops
- Food hoarding countries
- No preservation methods
- Food waste
- Bad disposal
Yeah, and the list goes on for all of the things that the world is really insecure about when it comes to production and disposal of food alone, not to mention the health effects of egg whites in fast food, among other stuff. Buttt… there is an emerging technology that could change all of that, and I’m going to be talking all about it today.
So I’ve been researching and working on projects in the space in the recent months, and I thought I start putting out content and findings on this, so here goes!
Cellular agriculture is a bio technique that builds off of cell culture.
Cellular Agriculture: The use of stem cells, tissue engineering, fermentation, and gene editing to culture cells into real products. This could be anything from muscle tissues to eat, to material products like leather.
So, cellular agriculture is based primarily on the concept of the cell. I’ve been super interesting in the future of food recently, so today, I’m going to be giving you an “in a nutshell” article, where I explain much of cellular agriculture as simply as possible, while still being able to go into detail.
- Two types of cells: prokaryotic and eukaryotic
- contain organelles
- No membrane bound in prokaryotic
- Proteins do a lot of stuff
- Cells differentiate and divide
- These cells can be culture outside of an animal to produce meat
- We can invigorate the fermentation and bacterial respiration processes to also lab grow milk
- Cellular agriculture contains cellular agriculture, which is making cellular products like muscle tissue to make meat, and then acellular agriculture, which is producing non cell products from cells like leather or protein to make dairy
The Cell — Fundamental Unit of Life
← The cell is the fundamental unit of life of which everything living is made out of. The human body is made up of about 37.2 trillion cells! There are specialized cell types which make up different body parts (e.g: brain cells, or neurons, make up the brain), specifically organs, or a large collection of tissues into a specific component in our body that carries a very specific and important role in our bodies, like how the heart pumps blood to the rest of our bodies so we can continue functioning and have blood circulation throughout our bodies.
There are two main types of cell classifications:
Prokaryotic and Euakaryotic cells.
The Eukaryotic Cell
The Eukaryotic cell is a complex type of cell, and what we’re made of. Unlike much of the prokaryotic cell, the eukaryotic cell has a bunch of smaller organ-like structures, called organelles, which are each held together and protect by their protective wall(s). These walls are called cell membranes. Organelle’s with one or more cell membrane, like the nucleus, is called a membrane-bound organelle, which only eukaryotic cells contain. These include a variety of things, each with multiple important functions.
There are 7 primary organelles found in eukaryotic cells.
- The cell/plasma membrane. It’s the blue edge that keeps the good in, and the bad out; holds the cell in one environment, and helps to transport things around
- The Golgi body, or apparatus. It’s the Amazon of the cell, as it helps package and prepare important molecules for transport. It’s the greenish stack of membranes
- The nucleus. The brain of the cell. It tells to cell what to do, and when. It’s the big orange circle
- The cytoskeleton. It’s a complex of rods that give the cell structure and shape
- The endoplasmic reticulum (ER). It’s that blue stuff around the nucleus. It comes it 2 types (smooth and hard), and does all things protein
- Mitochondria. The famous “cell powerhouse” that generates chemical energy for cells
- Lysosomes. The trash bin organelle that breaks down useless and dead cell stuf
These organelle’s aren’t just contained by membranes, but they can also have more than one membrane. This is called a double membrane, which 3 common eukaryotic cell organelles contain:
- The nucleus is double membrane bound. The nucleus first has an outer nuclear membrane with pores to let specific molecules it needs in,
and then another inner nuclear membrane, which contains a stringy material called chromatin, and a nucleolus organelle — it helps to make molecules called ribosomes — and both the inner and outer nuclear membranes and the space between them are called the nuclear envelope
- Much like the nucleus, the mitochondrion (singular mitochondria) has a double membrane. There is a space between the outer and inner spaces of the mitochondrion, called an intermembrane space
As shown in this diagram, the mitochondrion has a thicker outer membrane, and a thinner inner membrane, which surrounds a complex a folds called cristae. What a crista (singular) is is a fold within the inner membrane. This wrinkly pattern serves to create space for chemical reactions to occur on the surface on the mitochondrion.
- Finally, the eukaryotic cell of the plant contains an organelle called the chloroplast which is also double membraned. The chloroplast is the organelle in plants that allow them to get energy from sunlight through photosynthesis. The chloroplast also has a outer and inner membrane. The inner membrane holds a fluid called stroma, and circular discs called thylakoids. The stacks of thylakoids are called grana (granum sing.) and the stretching lines that connect the grana are called lamella.
· It is also important to note that the plant cell not only has a cell membrane, but another cell wall, which is completely permeable, meaning anything of a certain size can go through it, while the cell membrane (of most organisms) is semipermeable, or selectively permeable, meaning only certain things can go through it
So overall, eukaryotic cells are in a variety of different things, including fungi, plants, and animals. A living thing, or an organism, is called a eukaryote when it is made up of eukaryotic cells.
The Prokaryotic Cell
The prokaryotic cell describes a simpler cellular makeup, where there are no membrane-bound organelles. To begin, prokaryotic cells come in numerous cell shapes, each with their own Latin name;
- This round prokaryotic cell is called cocci (sing. coccus). It is any bacterium (pl. bacteria) — a single-celled prokaryote (meaning it is a prokaryotic cell-based organism) — with an ovoid, or spherical shape. Infections like strep throat (called streptococcus) are caused by cocci-bacteria
- This pill shaped prokaryotic cell is one of the most well known prokaryotic shapes, and is called bacilli (pl. bacillus), and is one of the three most common prokaryote shapes, including the coccus. It is also called a rod.
- This curved rod, or vibrios (sing. vibrio) is considered to be a derivative shape of the bacillus, albeit much less common than it. It is also called the comma, and numerous vibrio-bacteria can be found in uncooked seafood.
- This dough-like shape, or the ‘short [fat] rod’ is called coccobacilli (sing. coccobacillus), and is a combination of coccus and bacilli.
- This spiral wiggle is called the spirilla (sing. spirillum). It has a funny shape, and is the shape of the bacteria that are the cause of rat-bite fever!
- This final shape is called a spirochete (pl. spirochetes), and is described as a long, loose, helice. As a helix shape, spirochetes are the 3rd of the 3 most common cell shapes
Note that due to differentiation and some odd behavior in eukaryotic cells, which will be covered later, eukaryotic cells also have different cell morphologies (cell shapes), including spheroid, ovoid, cuboidal, cylindrical, flat, lenticular, fusiform, discoidal, crescent, ring stellate, and polygonal, and some eukaryotic cells can change shapes as well. It’s important to note that both cell classifications have the cell shape characteristic, but prokaryotic cell shapes are simpler and more comprehensive, while eukaryotic cell shapes involve the type of cell.
However, just because the prokaryotic cell doesn’t have all of the cool membrane bound organelles that the eukaryotic cell doesn’t have any organelles, because it does. Let’s take a look:
This is the prokaryotic cell. As we can see, its smaller than the eukaryotic cell, and contains no membrane bound organelles.
However, it does have some cell stuff inside of it that eukaryotic cells do.
Ribosomes. These are the tiny particles that contain proteins and other materials like mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid).
Also, prokaryotic bacterium have a cell wall, made of a material called peptidoglycan! The cytoskeleton mentioned before is non-membrane bound, so don’t get confused as to why its in a cell!
Other organelles to know
Plasmids are circular DNA structures. DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. From 4th grade bio, it’s know that is basically the material made up of the four nucleic basis: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine — which determines our genetic code. DNA is double helixed. For more, read this quote from a previous article, explaining what DNA is:
[DNA] is a fundamental building block  for our genes . In short, DNA’s made up of molecules called nucleotides, which are building blocks made up of a deoxyribose sugar (ribose in RNA), a phosphate group, and a nitrogenous base. For DNA, four nitrogen-containing base options are available. There are two classifications given, known as purines, which are larger, two-ring structures, and pyrimidines, smaller, one-ring structures. These purines are called adenine and guanine, while the pyrimidines are called thymine and cytosine. Due to DNA’s unique puzzle like sequencing, the purines and pyrimidines bond, with adenine always bonding to thymine, and guanine always pairing to cytosine. This determines fundamental DNA properties and double stranded architecture. — Okezue Bell, “Living Computers”
Anyway, plasmids are circular strands of the DNA, which can replicate independent of chromosomes, which are strings of nucleic acid and protein, which look like this:
They hold our genetic information, which is basically the code for our biological individuality. Chromosomes are synthesized in the nucleus, and are made from a threadlike structure called chromatin, which is made up of proteins and nucleic acids.
The word “protein” has been brought up numerous times when talking about cells and their structure. Well…dairy is protein. Meat is protein. A portion of the food distribution plate is protein! However, protein isn’t really a type of food per se. It’s a type of macromolecule.
A macromolecule is something like a protein or a nucleic acid; substances made up of numerous atoms to form a larger molecule. Let’s not get confused. Objectively speaking, they’re still really small, but comparatively speaking, they’re quite large when looking at other molecules.
Macromolecules are made up of atoms held together by covalent bonds, a type of chemical bond that brings two elements together to create a new element by sharing electrons, a type of negatively charged subatomic particle.
Fundamentally speaking, there are two primary macromolecules involved in the basics of cell culture and cellular agriculture: nucleic acids and proteins.
So, nucleic acids are macromolecules called linear polymers. Essentially what this means is that its made up of multiple monomers. What a monomer is is that it’s a single unite molecule that can bond to another identical molecule. This reaction can happen between thousands of monomers, which creates a polymer, which is a chain of monomers. Nucleic acids monomers bond in a line, therefore it’s called a linear polymer.
The monomers of nucleic acids are called nucleotides. These nucleotides are made up of the nucleobases, or nitrogenous bases — adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine (note that A-T and C-G, in RNA the base pair uracil bonds to adenine instead of thymine, which it replaces). The puzzle-like nature allows the base pairs to essentially click together and bond to create the nucleobases, multiple of which create the nucleotides, multiple of which create the nucleic acids!
The nucleotides also have a ribose or deoxyribose (RNA vs DNA) sugar along with the nucleobase, and it has a phosphate group (molecule of phosphorus element P) attached as well. We can see the molecular structure of the nucleobase -> nucleotides -> nucleic acids -> DNA/RNA shown below.
Ribose and deoxyribose are pentoses, meaning that they have 5 carbons. Anyway, these are the steps to constructing the RNA and DNA.
Note that DNA has A,T,C, and G, which are bonded together with hydrogen bonds, a type of bond that involves a hydrogen and an extremely electronegative atom, meaning that it wants electrons really badly, and it attracts electrons, and the weak electrostatic force brings the hydrogen and other molecular pair, like NO, causing them to have a weak electrostatic force of attraction that bond the bases together. The hydrogen bond isn’t strong but the complementary shapes of the bases make their pairing optimal.
Now for the other really important macromolecule: protein!
Proteins are a complex macromolecule whose monomers are called amino acids. Amino acids are made up of two molecular groups: the amino group (-NH2) and the carboxyl group (-COOH). Since all amino acids have this configuration, they can bond together to form a structure called a peptide chain. The way this happens is through this
The picture shows that the amino group of one amino acid and the carboxyl group of another can bond together, and once the amino acids append enough amino acids, they create the chain. This type of bond is called a peptide bond. When there are really long peptide chains, they are called polypeptides, and proteins typically contain 1+ of these.
There are a total of 20 types of amino acids, but there are 10,000–6 Billion different proteins in the body. Just think about it: when you mix the amino acid “flavors” in different proportions, you essentially get a whole new protein. Thus is the magic of chemical bonding. The types of amino acids are:
There are essentially configuration differences that make these amino acids different. The things that amino acids make, proteins, are even more interesting.
So protein. Why the fundamentals of life? Well, its because the can do so much stuff. Proteins can help in metabolism by providing structural support and by acting as enzymes, carriers, or hormones, promote cellular growth, among other amazing functions, all thanks to the diversity of the amino acid monomers.
There are a bunch of names for proteins. 1 cup of 1% fat milk has about 8 grams of the caesin and whey proteins, which give it its color, while the purple-ish colored rhodopsin pigment protein is the grounds for the field of optigenetics. In meat, the actin and myosin (thick and thin myofibrillar proteins) proteins are present, as well as myoglobin (a sarcoplasmic protein), collagen (a connective tissue protein), and glyolytic enzymes (an enzymatic sarcoplasmic protein) are inside. So basically, meat and dairy are called “protein” because they’ve got a lot of good protein in them.
Before delving into all of the science — y words that were just dropped, let’s zoom in to a protein.
Just look at that beauty (I sound like such a nerd 🤓). But seriously, if you thought what is that mess? when you saw that, THINK AGAIN, because these never-been-untagled-before-old-school-telephone-cord looking rainbow (not actually rainbow in the body) things are literally powering your life.
There are three types of proteins: fibrous, globular, and membrane. They are as intuitive as their names might seem. Fibrous proteins are proteins shaped like fibers, they have an elongated, rodlike shape. Therefore, when I say myofibril protein, I’m saying “muscle fiber protein”. The prefix myo- means muscle, which inevitably means meat. Later, we’ll talk about things like myosatellites, and myocytes. Collagen, for example, is a fibrous protein. The overall orientation of them looks like a certain thickness tube, like this! Their structure makes that optimal for supporting the cellular infrastructure, helping to constitute things like the cytoskeleton.
Globular proteins, also called spheroproteins, are semihydrosoluble (meaning some dissolve in water) proteins that are shaped like spheres or uniform globs. Globular proteins are uniquely not restricted to structural support, but can also act as catalysts, substances that speed up chemical reactions. They specifically act as enzymes, which are protein based catalysts. They look like coil balls. Hemoglobin (hemo- meaning blood, -globin meaning globular), the globular protein inside our blood that carries oxygen around to the cells, looks like this:
Then finally there’s membrane protein. They are structural support proteins shaped like walls, that help with the formation and fortification of the cell membrane. According to their location, they can assume different names. Integral membrane proteins are the permanently positioned proteins on the cell membrane, and are called transmembrane when they permeate or monotopic when they’re specifically placed on one side of the cell membrane. Peripheral membrane proteins are called transient (meaning that they appear and disappear), as they are free moving. Here’s a membrane protein:
So yes, proteins are essentially very long, tangled **awesome-looking** coils. So why does a protein look like this? Well, its because of their 3D structure.
3D Proteins and Protein Folding
So obviously, things inside of our body can’t really be two dimensional, or really thin three dimensional either. That would be very dangerous. Can a flat piece of paper or anything you draw on it have the physical potential to pump blood through your veins? No, I didn’t think so. Therefore, proteins need to be 3D too, meaning they have length, depth, and width. This fully formed protein structure comes in differently sectioned and progressively more complex substructures, which describe protein synthesis, done by the ribosomes that I mentioned before. So, let’s look at general protein morphology:
If we look closer, we see that at the quaternary structure, we start getting that extremely complex cordlike orientation, while at the beginning, the protein looks like a basic chemistry diagram. Let’s break this down:
- We start with the primary structure. This is just the poly peptide chain.
- Then, the hydrogen bonding of the polypeptide forms the new patterns of the pleated sheet and the alpha helix
2a. Pleated Sheet, also called the beta sheet, is just a bunch of beta strands (β-Strands are hydrophobic [repel from water] and polar [partial or complete charge from uneven electron sharing] connected through the hydrogen bonding peptide backbone
2b. The alpha helix, or α-helix is where ever nitrogen and hydrogen (N-H) backbone from amine bonds to all of the carbon and oxygen (C-O) from carboxyl.
3. The tertiary structure is the most interest part — folding! In fact, this is a important part of which the protein’s function and shape is determined. This is where the 3D shape is attained.
4. Finally, multiple tertiary structure fold into a quaternary structure, and voila! You get a perfect protein…some of the time.
There are — unfortunately — numerous instances in which the protein doesn't fold properly. This protein misfolding can lead to proteins becoming prions, these wretched misfolded proteins that can disrupt the folding process and cause other proteins to become prions. They’re like zombie proteins. Prions can cause a lot of diseases, including rare neurodegenerative diseases (distort/reduce cognitive, a.k.a. brain, activity) like the Creutzfeldt-Jakob diesease. There are many causal and resultant factors of misfolding and the creation of prions.
Another … moment with protein folding is actually predicting protein folding. This is called the protein folding problem, which may not actually be a problem anymore, thanks to DeepMind’s AlphaFold project 👏🏾, but that’s still TBS (to be seen. Do people use this abbreviation???). Even still, machine learning and quantum machine learning methods are definitely viable solutions. Here’s a more technical snippet from another article I wrote on the protein folding problem:
The protein folding problem asks if you can determine the four 3 Dimensional structures of the final proteins — primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary — from their amino acid sequences. Amino acids come in 20 different varieties:
Amino acids — Technology Networks
So why can’t we calculate mathematically? Well, its because there are many biochemical factors aside from the organization of amino acids that further convolute the graphical analysis of the problem itself. This gives us the correlation graph,
where we try to isolate associate factors (which emerges as a process that is practically impossible) that stimulate protein folding as well as the features of the process itself. [However, its still impossible to do with classical computation and even most (not all, clearly) machine learning methods].
Protein complexes play a huge role in how drugs are synthesized, and also their structure and function that help to defend against different viruses and diseases. Protein binding can also help to increase the half-life metric of drugs, which allows for the medicine unbound form release. When the metabolized process is excreted from the body through pores, the bound fraction is realized, thereby continuing equilibrium, where the reverse and forward reactions are equal.
In addition, recombination DNA technology have increased the potency and importance of proteins in drugs, and therapeutic proteins will outline a new frontier for drug discovery. There are numerous pharmaceutical application using noncovalent binders, and in vivo processes have helped to propel the development of important drugs for life saving diseases.
So, you should get it now. Basically, protein folding, binding, and their overall interactions stimulate a lot of different processes, extending well beyond the field of radical drug discovery.
The whole protein folding problem is a 50 year big bio question that has remained in obscuration and still unanswered, potentially until now. Overall though, solving it has a lot of promise;
- Enhancing radical drug discovery through retrosynthesis pathways and development of ligands (enzymatic virus inhibitors that prevent the spread of a virus, basically) and protein-based drugs
- Understanding DNA codons
- Optimizing of biocompatibility
- Enhancing gene editing
- Revolutionizing cellular agriculture and food customization (which you’ll learn about in a sec 😉 🌽)
So overview: protein folding basically concerns how we can use the orientation and bonding of the 20 amino acids and all of the possible combinations of them to predict the structure and function of a protein.
Ok, so now it’s clear that the cell’s structure contributes heavily to the array of functions that are vital to cellular agriculture. However, the cell as a whole also has some undiscussed behaviors and functions that we need to go over if we want to understand cellular agriculture.
There are a lot of types of cells. A lot.
Like one cell type per organ or important thing in our body. But wait. I just spent ~15 minutes telling you all about only two types of cells. Well that’s because there are only two cell types, but there are also a whole bunch of cell types. Ok, ok… now I’m making no sense, right? Good. Well, to start making sense, we’re going to talk about an integral cell behavior called differentiation, which is why these cells types, like pancreatic, cancerous, or skin cells are called differentiated cell types, and they’re actually derivatives of eukaryotic cells. Therefore, their emerging characteristics, like the beating of the heart cell, are called differentiated characteristics.
Note: Specific organs do what’s in their name. Sex cells for sexual reproduction, pancreatic cells make pancreas, cancer cells = tumors, so on and so forth. Each of the cells completed the associated function for the respective organ. It’s all super intuitive! No fancy names here 😎
Since cellular agriculture primarily concerns stem cells, we might as well go over differentiation.
So basically, an embryonic stem cell is this amazing type of stem cell, which is the only undifferentiated cell type. Basically, stem cells are a fundamental base unit from which all of out organs/other cells are derived. Anyway, the embryonic stem cell is a type of stem cell that can differentiate into anything. This means that the embryonic stem cell could become meat/muscle cells, heart cells, skin cells, anything. It’s an embryonic precursor, meaning its a base unit that’s yet to develop into something specific. While stem cells would be awesome for cell culture and even the development of new organs, etc, etc., we’re still yet to be able to control embryonic differentiation and even promoting stem cell growth without the nasty side effects of injection and other stuff.
The whole idea of the embryonic stem cell is that its pluripotent, meaning that it can proliferate, or divide to create more stem cells indefinitely, which can become anything. If we ever — I mean — when we begin controlling their differentiation, we will be able to feed the entire population off of one embryonic stem cell. There’s also the iPSC technology, or the induced pluripotent stem cell, which is basically the creation of a very similar embryonic stem cell from a somatic cell.
- Somatic cell = cell that is not an undifferentiated stem cell or any of the basic reproductive cells like gametes, gametocytes, or germ cells
Actually, the differentiation of cells can be described as cellular evolution, where a cell adopts a specific characteristic for a specific function. It can also be described as maturity, where an immature cell becomes mature by taking on specific responsibility (much like humans consider maturity!). Cell differentiation is what results in humans (and other things) being complex muti(multiple cell)cellular and very versatile beings, all from (hypothesized and theory-based) uni(one cell)cellular organisms.
However, this would be even more impossible without cell division.
Cell division is the property of cells to split from a parent cell into two or more daughter cells. If you want to just make new cells for your body or a specific organic function, look to the very general mitosis. If you want to have egg and sperm for reproduction, then that’s meiosis. Similar names, very, very different uses. The overall idea is this:
If you can’t see that well, then just read this:
For meiosis, its this:
HAHA! Just kidding. I’ll explain mitosis. It’s basically just a bunch of steps.
- Chromosomes prepare by fattening up and coiling. Prophase. Nuclear envelope is gone. Chromosomes now chromatids, strands of chromosomal thread caused by the chromosomal splitting.
- Metaphase. Genetic material mashes into chromosomes. I urge you to think of it more of a condensing than a mashing though 🙃. Nucleus is GONE. Chromosomes have now appeared in the cytoplasm.
- Anaphase. Chromosomes don’t want anything to do with each other, so they just back up and back away. They move to opposite sides of the spindle, a structure that splits up the two chromosomes made from the original chromosome.
- Telophase. Two new nuclei form. Oooooh! Fun fact, cell proliferation can cause aging, as when this happens the caps on the chromosome, called the telomere is chipped off a little each time, and when this process happens over time, this essentially causes the cell to go into a zombie, or senescent state, in which it doesn’t do anything.
Basically, these are the processes that allow for cellular replication and also cell devision.
And with all of that, congratulations 🎉🥳🎉🥳🎉🥳🎉🥳🎉🥳🎉🥳! You now know all of the necessary requisites to begin learning about cellular agriculture. But alas, I must sleep, and this article is getting much too long. So, I’ll end it off here. But don’t be sad, these are just the basics, and remember, I come out with a new article each day, so check back on my medium website for more each day. Also, remember to look ASAP to see when another long article detailing the cellular agriculture basics, as well as my research comes up soon!
Time to eat the future!!
Cellular Agriculture in a Meatcell — Ep. 2 Part 1: Meat Bonanza!
Lab-Grown Meat this Time
Resources/Scientific evidence of what I’ve said:
A great video (mine coming soon! 📹):
Before you go…
My name is Okezue Bell, and I’m a 14 y/o innovator/entrepreneur in a variety of biotech and computational technology spaces. I’m investing my time in researching and developing myself! Make sure to contact me more:
🔗 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/okezue-a-...
💻 Personal Website: https://www.okezuebell.com