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| 1 minute read

My hovercraft is full of eels

As a resident of the Island of Eels in the East Anglian Fens, barely a day goes by without seeing some reminder of the former importance of eels in the area. Stone to build the magnificent cathedral was acquired for 8000 eels per year. Rents would be paid in eels. (Follow Surprised Eel Historian, PhD on the site formerly known as Twitter for more eel gems). 

Ely Cathedral from the fens

Sadly, the European eel is critically endangered, with its complex life cycle hampering efforts for sustainable breeding. The demand for eel meat inevitably means large-scale smuggling operations exist.

So I was interested to read this article on lab-grown eel meat. The company behind the product says it uses patented technology based on culturing organoids to form muscle fibres; as the myotome structure of fish is simpler than that of mammals, this may mean that the process is well-suited to this type of cultured meat. I was unable to find their patent specifically on applying the process to fish, but one of the co-founders has previously filed applications covering a process for making bovine organoids, and of course there are other groups working on cultured fish meat. All of this is to say that hopefully the technology will help reduce the pressures on wild eels, although overfishing is not the only reason for their decline.

In other eel news*, it seems that charges from electric eels are sufficient to introduce genetic material into nearby fish larvae by electroporation. Is there nothing these mighty fish can't do?


*Electric eels are not true eels, sadly.

"The pioneering use of organoids could provide companies with the ability to tap into animal cells’ inherent self-organising properties, effectively outsourcing the difficult task of developing cultivated meat and seafood onto nature itself"


agritech, biotech, food & drink, life sciences, patents