Osaka University researchers have used 3D bioprinting to create textured synthetic meats that mimic the unique and complex texture of Wagyu beef, a step forward for cultured meat alternatives.
With increasingly urgent warnings that the world must immediately and drastically cut carbon emissions if it is to meet the Paris Agreement targets, there is growing interest in meat alternatives that don’t involve heavy carbon emissions. Of ordinary meat, beef is by far the biggest culprit, emitting 60 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of meat produced.
While the way beef is produced today is considered environmentally unsustainable, there are no completely satisfactory alternatives to cultured meat. Available synthetic beef — and other synthetic mammalian meats — consists of poorly organized muscle fiber cells without the structure of real steak.
In an effort to engineer synthetic meat that more closely mimics real meat, researchers at Osaka University used stem cells from Wagyu cows to 3D print a meat alternative with muscle, fat and blood vessels arranged to look strong. on Wagyu steak. Wagyu steak is distinguished by its high intramuscular fat content, also known as marbling or sashi. The beef comes from four breeds of cattle, fed for 600 days (twice as long as other breeds) in a relaxed environment, resulting in fatty meats that cook into a rich and juicy steak with a unique flavor and texture.
“Using the histological structure of Wagyu beef as a blueprint, we have developed a 3D printing method that can produce custom complex structures such as muscle fibers, fat and blood vessels,” explains Dr Dong-hee Kang.
The researchers started with two types of ‘multipotent’ Wagyu stem cells: bovine satellite cells and adipose tissue stem cells. Under certain lab conditions, these cells can be made to differentiate into any type of cell needed to produce the synthetic meat.
They made a bio-print of individual fibers containing muscle, fat or blood vessels, made from these cells. The fibers were then arranged to reproduce the structure of Wagyu meat, with the fibers aligned in a tendon-like gel. The researchers from Osaka University used 72 fibers (42 muscle, 28 adipose tissue and two blood vessels) in their demonstration and produced a piece of synthetic meat with a diameter of 5 mm and a length of 10 mm.
Finally, it was cut perpendicularly to reveal the marbled texture characteristic of Wagyu beef.
The process promises to make it possible to create and modify complex flesh tissue structures.
“By improving this technology, it is not only possible to reproduce complex meat structures, such as the wonderful sashi from Wagyu beef, but also to make subtle adjustments to the fat and muscle components,” said Michiya Matsusaki, senior author of the study. Nature Communication study. That is, customers could order cultured meat with the desired amount of fat, based on taste and health considerations.