Osaka University scientists have made use of 3D printing technology to create a Wagyu beef-like meat.
Wagyu, as the name itself suggests, is ‘Japanese cow’. This type of beef is not just costly but also world-famous for its high content of intramuscular fat, known as marbling or sashi.
It is this marbling that provides the beef with its rich flavors and distinctive texture.
Nevertheless, due to raised cattle being a major contributor of methane and other climate emissions, there is a growing clamor to replace this real meat with ‘cultured’ or lab-grown meat.
Currently, available cultured meat alternatives fare badly when it comes to reproducing the complex structure of real beef steaks, as they consist primarily of poorly organized muscle fiber cells.
The Osaka team is hoping to change that by using stem cells isolated from Wagyu cows to 3D-print a meat alternative containing muscle, fat, and blood vessels arranged to closely resemble conventional steaks.
According to the scientists, their work may help usher in a more sustainable future with widely available cultured meat.
“Using the histological structure of Wagyu beef as a blueprint, we have developed a 3D printing method that can produce tailor-made complex structures, like muscle fibers, fat, and blood vessels,” says lead author Dong-Hee Kang.
As part of their research, the scientists started with two types of stem cells, called bovine satellite cells and adipose-derived stem cells.
They say that under the right laboratory conditions, these ‘multipotent’ cells can be coaxed to differentiate into every type of cell needed to produce the cultured meat.
What followed were individual fibers – including muscle, fat, and blood vessels – being fabricated from these cells using bioprinting.
The fibers were then arranged in 3D, following the histological structure, to reproduce the structure of the real Wagyu meat, which was finally sliced perpendicularly, in a similar way to the traditional Japanese candy Kintaro-ame.
This process made the reconstruction of the complex meat tissue structure possible in a customizable manner.
“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,” says senior author Michiya Matsusaki.
This means that customers will be able to order cultured meat with their desired amount of fat, based on taste and health considerations.
Image and content: Wagyu H/Osaka University via PhysOrg