Growing meat on spinach skeletons
US researchers have developed an edible platform out of spinach that can be used to grow meat cells.
The team from Boston College found the veiny skeleton of a spinach leaf could be used in the development of cultured, lab-grown meat. A report has been published in the advance online edition of the journal Food BioScience.
The circulatory network of a spinach leaf served as an edible substrate upon which the researchers grew bovine animal protein, said Boston College Professor of Engineering Glenn Gaudette, the lead author of the new study.
“Muscle cells are anchorage dependent, meaning they need to grab on to something in order to grow. In the lab, we can use plastic tissue culture plates, but plastic is not edible.”
Earlier advances by Gaudette in this area showed that human heart tissue could be cultivated on a spinach leaf scaffold.
“In our previous work, we demonstrated that spinach leaves could be used to create heart muscle patches,” Gaudette said. “Instead of using spinach to regrow replacement human parts, this latest project demonstrates that we can use spinach to grow meat.”
Gaudette said the team, which included Worcester Polytechnic Institute graduate students Jordan Jones and Alex Rebello, removed the plant cells from the spinach leaf and used the remaining vascular framework to grow isolated cow precursor meat cells. The cells remained viable for up to 14 days and differentiated into muscle mass.
The researchers point out that the successful results will lead to further characterisation of the materials and scientific processes to better understand how to meet consumer demand and gauge how large-scale production could be accomplished in accordance with health and safety guidelines.
“We need to scale this up by growing more cells on the leaves to create a thicker steak,” Gaudette said. “In addition, we are looking at other vegetables and other animal and fish cells.”
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