Single Cell Protein

What is a Single-Cell Protein?

A single-cell protein or SCP is a edible protein derived from a pure microbial monoculture or cell culture of different microorganisms. These microorganisms mostly grow on different sources of carbon for synthesis.

The name SCP is widely accepted as these microorganisms majorly sprout and develop as filamentous structure. That justifies the single-cell protein definition. Humans, as well as animals, can use this extracted protein from this biomass as a supplement.

By single-cell protein production, various poultry farms and animal husbandries can provide high-quality ready-to-use proteins to feed their livestock. SCP can also be used as a plausible method to deal with the protein deficiency problem among human beings.

Listed below is a flowchart of single-cell protein production microorganisms that are used widely-


Fungi



Yeast



Bacteria



Algae



Aspergillus niger



Candida utilis



Pseudomonas fluorescens



Chlorella pyrenoidosa



Rhizopus cyclopean



Saccharomyces cerevisiae



Bacillus megaterium



Chondrus crispus


Aspergillus fumigatus

Candida tropicalis

Lactobacillus

Spirulina sps


Single-cell Protein Production

The pure microbial culture for single-cell protein needs a good source of nitrogen, sufficient carbohydrates, and several other nutrients. To prevent any contamination, a highly sterile condition is also required for maximum production. Following steps are required for single-cell protein production-

  • Step1 – A suitable strain needs to be selected. 

  • Step2 – Fermentation of the microorganism.

  • Step3 – Harvesting in proper condition.

  • Step4 – Post-harvest treatments.

  • Step5 – Single-cell protein processing to make the biomass edible.

The components of the microbial culture media should be sterilised by heat or filtered via the microporous membrane. Now, the chosen microorganism is introduced to the culture medium in favourable condition. 

Due to its aerobic process, an affluent supply of oxygen is compulsory. However, in the case of algae fermentation, this condition is optional. After breeding, the biomass can be processed for usefulness.

Other than high protein that is nearly 60-80% of the dry weight of a cell, SCP also consists of nucleic acids, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. Moreover, single-cell protein is a rich source of amino acid that is rarely found in other foods. 

All these components have made SCP a high nutrient food for consumption. Thus, as a food supplement, SCP deserves progressive consideration after assessing all single-cell protein advantages and disadvantages.

Following are some advantages and disadvantages of single-cell protein- 

Advantages of Single-Cell Protein

The basic advantage of SCP production is the quantity of the protein. Through microbial culture, a large quantity of protein can be produced by providing optimal conditions.

  • The growth rate of microorganisms is considerably higher. Under ideal conditions, these microbes can produce a great quantity of biomass. Some microorganisms can double their mass within 30 minutes.

  • Both the quantity and quality of the derived protein from these microbes are better than other animals and plants.

  • Genetic manipulation is easy in microbes. Thus, various compositions of amino acid can be found.

  • Waste materials can be used as a substrate in SCP production. This helps to reduce pollution as well. 

  • The fermentation processes as well as the culture condition, both are easy and simple.

  • The production of microbes doesn’t depend on climate condition. 

Disadvantages of Single-Cell Protein

Nonetheless, there are some disadvantages of SCP as well. For human consumption, single-cell protein has the following drawbacks-

  • Due to the restricted capacity of degrading nucleic acid, SPC consumption can be harmful for humans. These microbes have 5-15% of nucleic acid content that can be hazardous for humans. It can cause severe gastrointestinal problems.

  • SCP can also cause allergic reaction for some humans who has a sensitive digestive system, or if their body refuses to recognise the biomass.

  • The high nucleic acid content can also lead to escalated uric acid levels in the blood. 

  • Regular consumption of single-cell protein can lead to gout and kidney stone.

  • Certain skin reaction can also be noticed after consumption.

  • Lastly, due to the requirement of high-end machinery, the production cost can be higher.

Application of Single-Cell Protein

  • Therapeutic and medicinal application for controlling obesity, stress, weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar.

  • Application for cosmetic products for hair and skin.

  • Protein supplement for malnourished humans.

  • A convenient source of food for poultry, fishery, and animal farms.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is a single-cell protein?

Single-cell protein is the refined form of protein extracted from microbes that are cultured under ideal conditions.

2. What are the protein and nucleic acid composition in fungi and yeast?

Fungi – 30-45% protein and 7-10% nucleic acid.

Yeast – 45-55% protein and 6-12% nucleic acid.

3. What are the components of SCP?

Besides protein, SCP contains fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals.