Think of it! How much better and humane would the world be if vegetable tissue could be “cultured” from cow tissue in a few weeks to taste and look like beef? Cows would not have to graze and release greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and be slaughtered. Fertile land could be used for other purposes – and people’s cholesterol levels and fat would decline.
Now, researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and from Aleph Farms in the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod have achieved a breakthrough in the production of cultivated meat grown outside an animal’s body. As reported in the journal Nature Food, soy protein – which is readily available and economically efficient – can be used as scaffolds for growing bovine tissue without using GMO (genetically modified organism) techniques.
The patented 3D platform uses various types of bovine cells to form complex tissue, creating an end product that has the texture, structure and taste of farmed meat.
The innovative cell-based meat technology – spearheaded for the past few decades by Prof. Shulamit Levenberg, dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering – was originally developed for medical applications for tissue engineering in human transplants. This technology has now been successfully applied to growing cultured meat on scaffolds made of soy protein. BLING CONVENTIONAL MEAT
At Al Farms, we believe meat is one of life’s pleasures, to be celebrated and enjoyed Developing cultured meat offers many benefits: It minimizes environmental damage caused by the meat-production industry, the increased use of antibiotics that accelerates the growth of drug-resistant bacteria; solves ethical reservations about the suffering of animals during the meat production process; and tames the industry’s detrimental ecological impact due to the intensive use of natural resources.
Aleph Farms is the first company to successfully grow slaughter-free steaks. Levenberg is the company’s founding partner and chief scientist, and the current research was carried out by doctoral student Tom Ben-Arye and Dr. Yulia Shandalov.
According to the new article in Nature Food, the innovative process for growing cultured meat tissue takes up to a month to produce food that resembles the texture and taste of beef. The cells grow on a scaffold that replaces the extracellular matrix (ECM) found in animals in a controlled setting similar to the way they would grow inside a cow’s body.
Since this is a food product, the scaffold must be edible, and therefore only edible alternatives were considered. Soy protein was chosen as the scaffold to which the cells adhere and proliferate with the help of myogenesis-related growth factors, similarly to the tissue engineering technology that Levenberg developed.
Soy protein, an inexpensive byproduct obtained during the production of soy oil, is readily available, rich in protein, porous and its structure promotes cell and tissue growth. Soy protein’s tiny holes are suitable for cell adherence, division, and proliferation. It also has larger holes that transmit oxygen and nutrients essential for building muscle tissue. In addition, soy protein scaffolds for growing cultured meat can be produced in different sizes and shapes, as needed.
The cultured meat in this research underwent testing that confirmed its resemblance to slaughtered steak in texture and taste. “We expect that in the future, it will be possible to also use other vegetable proteins to build the scaffolds,” revealed Levenberg. “However, the current research using soy protein is important in proving the feasibility of producing meat from several types of cells on plant-based platforms, which increases its similarity to conventional bovine meat.”
Levenberg earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a direct-track PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot She pursued postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she began developing the unique technology for creating in vitro 3-D tissue for medical applications. Since then, she has continued developing these technologies and in recent years has achieved impressive breakthroughs in this field, including repairing severed spinal cords in rats.
Today, she is the head of the Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Lab, director of the Technion Center for 3D Bioprinting, director of the Rina and Avner Schneur Center for Diabetes Research as well as the dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering