- Scientists from Osaka University created the world’s first 3D-printed Wagyu beef using stem cells isolated from Japanese cattle.
- The method can be applied to produce other complicated structures.
- The cell-based meat business may be worth $20 million by 2027.
World’s first 3D-printed Wagyu beef
According to a press release, scientists from Osaka University created the world’s first 3D-printed Wagyu beef using stem cells isolated from Japanese cattle. The product resembles a realistic steak piece, complete with muscle, fat, and blood vessels.
Wagyu (Japanese cow) beef is one of the most sought-after and expensive meats in the world due to its high marble content. Marbling, or sashi in Japan, refers to the visible layers of intramuscular fat that give the beef its rich flavors and distinctive texture, and 3D printing Wagyu is an extremely difficult feat because most cultured meats produced thus far resemble mince composed of simple muscle fibers rather than the complex structure of real beef steaks.
The researchers were able to recreate this unique grade of meat using a unique process, and their discoveries might open the way for a more sustainable future with readily available cultured meat.
Bioprinting the beef
According to the article published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers employed two types of stem cells, bovine satellite cells and adipose-derived stem cells insulated from Wagyu cows. The cells were then cultured and encouraged to become the numerous cell types needed to create individual fibers for muscle, fat, and blood vessels.
These were heaped into a 3D stack to imitate Wagyu marbling.
The researchers then devised a technique inspired by Japanese Kintaro sweets, an old traditional treat produced in a long pipe and sliced into pieces. The stacks were perpendicularly cut to produce lab-grown beef slices, allowing for a high degree of personalization within the complicated flesh structure.
This is how they were able to replicate the famed Wagyu texture. The synthetic meat “looks more like the genuine thing,” according to the researchers, and the method can be applied to produce other complicated structures.
“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.
A promising start
The researchers didn’t say how much the steaks would cost to make or how long it would take to get them to market, but it seems promising.
According to Markets & Markets, the cell-based meat business may be worth $20 million by 2027. If such efforts are successful in disrupting the food supply chain, the 3D printing revolution may one day eliminate the need to get meat from cattle, opening the way for a new, more sustainable method to consume meat in the future.