Nestle Makes Deal To Buy Brain And Liver Cells For Nutrition Research

Yesterday, the news broke that Nestle, the Swiss food superconglomerate, made a deal to obtain lab-grown human brain and liver cells from Cellular Dynamics International. What’s this all about? Are they going to incorporate the cells in a new “Nestlé Crunch with Brains” candy bar for zombies with a sweet tooth? No, the truth is more mundane than that, but still kind of creepy.

Consumers these days want to know how their food will benefit their health. What the company wants is “to take advantage of the space between food and pharmaceuticals,” the head of Nestle’s research arm explained to the Wall Street Journal. Imagine Boost nutritional drinks fortified with nutrients that the company’s research shows are beneficial to neurons, for example. There’s a lot of money in food that companies can at least claim has medical benefits, and a growing global population of elderly people who might be interested.

The current market for “health and wellness” food and drink products is an estimated $772 billion, and that’s expected to grow in the future.

Where do those cells come from, though? They’re not harvested directly from dead people: the company makes cells from healthy human tissue that can become different types of cells, something like stem cells.

Nestle Finds a Reliable Supply of Brain Cells [Wall Street Journal]
Nestlé in Biotech Deal to Test Foods on Human Cells [WSJ] (subscription required)