Researchers Develop Promising Cultivated Meat Prototype Using Decellularised Asparagus Scaffold

Researchers from Singapore have successfully developed a promising cultivated meat prototype by co-culturing porcine muscle and fat cells in a decellularised asparagus scaffold.

The prototype development was part of a study aiming to expand the use of decellularized plant scaffolds beyond regenerative medicine, specifically for cultivated meat production. According to the researchers, this prototype closely mimics conventional meat in texture and flavor and could pave the way for large-scale cultivated meat biomanufacturing.

“Structured CM product scalability relies on four key elements: cells, medium, scaffold, and bioprocessing”

Plant-based edible scaffolds offer essential physical and biological support for tissue development, enabling more complex cultivated meat products with structure and volume. Still, the plant cells of these scaffolds need to be removed in a lengthy process called decellularisation to preserve only the microstructure that mimics the extracellular matrix (the natural structure of animal tissue).

cultivated meat scaffolds
© Gelatex

The scientists say decellularisation enables scaffold functionality and enhances muscle cell alignment, cell adhesion, and proliferation, resulting in cultivated products that more closely resemble traditional cuts. In addition, decellularized scaffold biomaterials provide higher biocompatibility, biodegradation, biological safety, and various bioactivities, an advantage over synthetic scaffold materials.

Asparagus scaffolds

The scientists utilized a decision matrix to select suitable plant and fungi materials for decellularisation, focusing on edibility, digestibility, and cell alignment features.

Asparagus was chosen for its unique vascular bundle arrangement, which provides the rigidity and cell alignment required for muscle and fat cell growth.

A researcher in the lab
© Mohith

The researchers made two prototypes combining cells and the decellularised asparagus scaffold. One used a C2C12 mouse myoblast cell line (ATCC) as a model to assess the DPS’s efficacy in supporting cell proliferation and muscle differentiation, given its prevalent use in muscle studies and established reliability.

The other was a cultivated red meat prototype featuring porcine adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (pADMSCs) following previous research that has shown the viability of various cell types on decellularised asparagus scaffolds.

Critical for scaling

According to the authors, the results show the potential for sustained growth and differentiation of primary pADMSCs on decellularised asparagus scaffolds. The cells could attach and align efficiently by cutting asparagus stems longitudinally to create scaffolds with specific and porous structures that allow for nutrient and oxygen flow, which is crucial for muscle tissue growth. Moreover, the study found minimal cytotoxic effects, which could keep these cells alive and healthy for a long time.

cultivate meat

The researchers also tested the cultivated meat prototype under dry and moist conditions to see how it would perform in a commercial setting. They experimented with different sizes and structures to ensure the meat would look and feel like traditional meat, making it easier to produce on a larger scale.

Viability and scalability

However, further investigation is needed to determine the potential for media perfusion (continuous flow) in scale up production. The decellularised asparagus scaffold demonstrated consistent structural integrity and mechanical support for myotube formation, unlike previous studies using textured soy protein scaffolds, which showed degradation and decreased strength.

“Structured CM product scalability relies on four key elements: cells, medium, scaffold, and bioprocessing. The scaffold is critical for scaling up CM production by providing a platform for cultured cells to grow. Macro-porous scaffolds support cellular proliferation and offer essential mechanical support. There is therefore a need to develop unique macro-porous scaffolds that may resemble meat in terms of texture, flavour, and nutritional value,” the authors state.

The research received support from Singapore’s National Research Foundation and the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) under the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme. It has been published in the journal Science of Food.

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