Scientists Mass-Produce Lab-Grown Fat Tissue for Cultured Meat
Category Science Monday - May 22 2023, 09:30 UTC - 9 months ago Scientists have successfully proposed lab-grown adipose tissue on a large scale, providing new hope for the production of cell-cultured meat. Researchers have mass-produced lab-grown fat tissue, exploring its texture, composition, and potential to combine with muscle cell structures. The process is relatively simple to perform and has considerable potential for commercial applications.
Monday - May 22 2023, 09:30 UTC - 9 months ago
Scientists have successfully proposed lab-grown adipose tissue on a large scale, providing new hope for the production of cell-cultured meat. Researchers have mass-produced lab-grown fat tissue, exploring its texture, composition, and potential to combine with muscle cell structures. The process is relatively simple to perform and has considerable potential for commercial applications.
Scientists have successfully proposed lab-grown adipose tissue on a substantial scale, paving the way for the possibility of large-scale production of cultured meat. Scientists have successfully mass-produced lab-grown fat tissue mirroring the texture and composition of naturally derived animal fats.The findings, recently published in the journal eLife, could be utilized in the creation of cell-cultured meat, enhancing its texture and taste to closely resemble traditional meat.
Cultivated meat has been making waves in the news lately, with reports from startup companies around the world developing cell-grown chicken, beef, pork, and fish – mostly in early stages of development, not ready for large-scale production and with a couple of exceptions, not yet approved for commercial sale. Most of those products in development are in the form of an unstructured mixture of cells – like chicken nuggets rather than a slice of chicken breast. What is lacking is the texture of real meat, created by muscle fibers, connective tissue, and fat – and it’s the fat that gives meat flavor. In fact, consumer testing with natural beef of different fat content showed that the highest scores were registered for beef containing 36% fat.
However, producing cultivated fat tissue in sufficient quantities has been a major challenge because, as the fat grows into a mass, the cells in the middle become starved of oxygen and nutrients. In nature, blood vessels and capillaries deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the tissue. Researchers still have no way to replicate that vascular network at a large scale in lab-grown tissue, so they can only grow muscle or fat to a few millimeters in size.
To get around this limitation, the researchers grew fat cells from mice and pigs first in a flat, two-dimensional layer, then harvested those cells and aggregated them into a three-dimensional mass with a binder such as an alginate and mTG, which are both already used in some foods.
"Our goal was to develop a relatively simple method of producing bulk fat. Since fat tissue is predominantly cells with few other structural components, we thought that aggregating the cells after growth would be sufficient to reproduce the taste, nutrition, and texture profile of natural animal fat," says first author John Yuen Jr, a graduate student at the Tufts University Center for Cellular Architecture (TUCCA), Massachusetts, US. "This can work when creating the tissue solely for food since there’s no requirement to keep the cells alive once we gather the fat in bulk." .
The aggregated fat cells immediately had the appearance of fat tissue, but to see if they truly reproduced the features of native fat from animals, the team carried out a series of further experiments. First, they explored the texture, by compressing the fat tissue and seeing how much pressure it could withstand compared to natural animal fat. They found that cell-grown fat bound with sodium alginate was able to withstand a similar amount of pressure to fat from livestock and poultry, but the cell-grown fat that was bound with mTG behaved more like rendered fat – similar to lard or tallow. This suggesed that the texture would depend on the binder used.The process of aggregating fat cells is relatively simple to perform and has considerable potential for commercial applications for developing cultured meats. The team also explored the nutritional profile of the lab-grown fat, finding that the composition of their fat closely resembled that of native fat from animals. The team explored the texture of the fat, comparing it with natural fat from animals and finding that it was varied depending on which binders were used. The process the researchers used to aggregate fat cells can be scaled up to produce cell-cultured fat in bulk.The research team is now working to develop capillary networks within the fat tissues to give them even better texture and nutrition. The team also explored the potential to combine the fat tissue with muscle cell structures to produce usable cuts of cell-cultured meat.