Scientists have created a new method for producing an edible scaffold for growing cultured meat.
The scaffold, which is made from textured soy protein, enables cultured cells to grow into a beef-like product for human consumption.
The study, published in Nature Food, found the product performed well in preliminary taste tests.
Cultured, or cell-based, meat is an evolving technology that could generate meat without the need for animal agriculture.
Its creation requires a 3D scaffold to support the engineered cells and mimic the environment in which animal muscles grow.
The scaffold also needs to be edible and have a suitable nutritional value and texture.
Shulamit Levenberg, from the Israel Institute of Technology, and colleagues describe a new method to create a 3D scaffold out of textured soy protein.
They say it is a cost-effective, edible and porous protein-based material.
Researchers found that bovine satellite cells, which are “seeded” within the textured soy protein scaffolds where they multiply and create tissue, covered a large portion of the scaffolds.
They also found that co-culture with bovine smooth muscle cells and tri-culture with bovine endothelial cells – cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels – created an enhanced meat-like texture.
According to volunteers who tested the product after cooking, its taste, aroma and texture were typical of real meat.
The authors conclude that their results may provide the tools for cultured meat to be scaled up to generate new protein sources for human consumption and help reduce reliance on animal agriculture.
They write: “The results presented here represent the potential for cell-based meat to be scaled up, forming new protein sources for human consumption.
“This would reduce our reliance on animal agriculture and contribute to more sustainable food security.”