Future steak: a personalised Wagyu beef alternative

Thursday, 26 August, 2021

Future steak: a personalised Wagyu beef alternative

Scientists from Osaka University used stem cells isolated from Wagyu cows to 3D-print a meat alternative containing muscle, fat and blood vessels arranged to closely resemble conventional steaks.

Wagyu can be literally translated into “Japanese cow”, and is famous around the globe for its high content of intramuscular fat, known as marbling or sashi. This marbling provides the beef with its rich flavours and distinctive texture.

Currently, the only available cultured meat alternatives consist primarily of poorly organised muscle fibre cells that fail to reproduce the complex structure of real beef steaks.

Now, a team of scientists led by Osaka University has used 3D-printing to create synthetic meat that looks more like the real thing. “Using the histological structure of Wagyu beef as a blueprint, we have developed a 3D-printing method that can produce tailor-made complex structures, like muscle fibres, fat and blood vessels,” lead author Dong-Hee Kang said.

The team started with two types of stem cells, called bovine satellite cells and adipose-derived stem cells. Under the right laboratory conditions, these ‘multipotent’ cells can be coaxed to differentiate into every type of cell needed to produce the cultured meat.

Scheme of structured Wagyu beef meat by “3D printing kintaro-ame technology” Credit: Osaka University

Individual fibres including muscle, fat or blood vessels were fabricated from these cells using bioprinting. The fibres were then arranged in 3D, following the histological structure, to reproduce the structure of the real Wagyu meat, which was finally sliced perpendicularly, in a similar way to the traditional Japanese candy Kintaro-ame. This process made the reconstruction of the complex meat tissue structure possible in a customisable manner.

“By improving this technology, it will be possible to not only reproduce complex meat structures, such as the beautiful sashi of Wagyu beef, but to also make subtle adjustments to the fat and muscle components,” senior author Michiya Matsusaki said.

This means that one day customers would be able to order cultured meat with their desired amount of fat, based on taste and health considerations.

The article, ‘Engineered whole cut meat-like tissue by the assembly of cell fibers using tendon-gel integrated bioprinting’, was published in Nature Communications at DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25236-9.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/gritsalak

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