While lab-grown meat does show promise as a more ethical and sustainable alternative to its traditional counterpart, its texture currently isn’t very life-like and therefore not all that appetizing. There may be new hope on the horizon, though, in the form of cell scaffolds made from grass.
Scientists at Britain’s University of Bath initially noticed that the aligned cellular structure of individual blades of grass is similar to that of muscle fibers. Led by Dr. Paul De Bank, they proceeded to gather lawn grass from the campus grounds – the specific types of grass were suspected to be rye, fescue and/or bluegrass.
Next, in a washing and bleaching process known as decellularization, all of the cells were removed from each blade. What was left behind was an empty scaffolding-like “extracellular matrix” made up of cellulose – which is edible.
When the resulting matrices were subsequently seeded with mouse-derived myoblast cells, approximately 35 percent of those cells adhered to the scaffolding, proceeding to reproduce and ultimately forming a three-dimensional piece of muscle-like biological tissue. Needless to say, plans call for the technology to ultimately incorporate stem cells derived from animals such as cows, not mice.
The scientists are now working on scaling the technology up for the commercial use, which will include improving the rate at which cells adhere to the matrix and reproduce.
“When we eat beef, we’re partly eating the grass the cows have grazed on in their lifetime,” says De Bank. “What’s neat about our study is that it shows that we can directly replace the animals with the grass they eat […] I’m hopeful that sooner rather than later, we could have a meat product on the market based on grass.”
A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research – Part A.
Source: University of Bath
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