Cultivated meat tech could solve traditional Chinese medicine’s poaching problem

October 11, 2021 |

In Hong Kong, advances in lab-grown meat development are raising hopes for alternative routes to producing Traditional Chinese Medicines—particularly remedies that have pushed several species to the brink of extinction. 

TCM is a $434 billion global market that includes exotic therapies like donkey-hide gelatin for strengthening blood but also more conventional practices like acupuncture and nutritional advice. However, coordinated regulatory efforts have been unable to effectively curb illegal hunting connected to TCMs like rhino horn as an aphrodisiac or pangolin scales for protection against witchcraft. 

Kenneth Lee, a professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, tells small tissue samples from endangered animals could be differentiated into muscle cells, bone, cartilage, and fat. “I think this is a legitimate process that can counteract illegal animal trafficking,” he added. 

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