Can 3-D printing be used to create a steak in the future? Will consumers really buy "breathable" supplements and foods? It may sound far-fetched, but both ideas are being explored and could soon be reality.
In fact, AeroShot Energy is already in the marketplace with inhalable caffeine. Created by Harvard University professor David Edwards, the product is already available in about 20,000 stores nationwide, including CVS. The inhalable caffeine comes in small plastic tubes with bright caps. Pull the cap open, insert the opening in your mouth and inhale. A hundred milligrams of your favorite stimulant plus vitamin B hits your system instantly in a fruity, powdery puff.
Next up, the company is working on breathable vitamins and supplements - and breathable foods. A tube the delivers chocolate is already being sold online. They are also working on pizza - which could bring a whole new connotation to the phrase "you inhaled that pizza."
Modern Meadow, a company started by father-son duo Gabor and Andras Forgacs in 2011, is experimenting with 3-printing and tissue engineering to "print" animal products in hopes of addressing environmental, animal welfare and food shortage concerns.
They just might accomplish their goal. Five years ago the duo helped start Organovo, a firm that has found success making human tissue for pharmaceutical research and other medical applications. Modern Meadow believes its postmortem animal tissues are simpler to build and faster to market.
The first product they are focusing on is leather - a prototype material will debut later this year. The goal is to utilize it for fashion accessories and apparel.
Meat is a longer term project - but they do intend to tackle it. And, they've already earned grants from the National Science Foundation and USDA.
Here are some other food science developments in the works:
• The WikiCell, an edible "nutritional skin," that eliminates the need for packaging on products such as ice cream, yogurt and juice.
• Freight Farms which converts shipping containers into stackable, modular mini-farms, reducing the footprint required for growing crops and allows for locally grown produce in urban areas.
• AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon, which could be the first transgenic animal product approved for human consumption in the U.S. Created by circulating growth hormone year-round, this species is quicker to produce and consumes less food per pound of product than wild salmon. These salmon are now in the advanced regulatory review process by FDA.
• Enviropigs were developed with the ability to digest and metabolize natural phosphorus in their feed, which is not common in non-genetically engineered swine. Enviropigs have a genome supplemented with a gene from E.coli that produces phytase exclusively in the salivary glands. The increased phytase production in these pigs will enhance the environment by decreasing commercial phytase production and liming the excretion of undigested phosphorus. Additionally, it is said to improve the health of the animal by improving nutrient utilization and bone strength.
The commercialization of AquAdvantage salmon and Enviropigs could create opportunities to extend this technology into bovines.