Developing Plant-Based Scaffolds for Marbled Cultured Beef
New Harvest Research Fellow: Stephanie Kawecki, M.S; The Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles
Project Start Date: April 2019
Project Duration: Full time; Four years funded
Institutes: The Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles
Supervisors: Dr. Amy Rowat, Associate Professor of Biology and Integrative Physiology; Adjunct Faculty in Bioengineering, The Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles
The beef industry is a major contributor to accelerating climate change. Culturing meat in vitro is a promising strategy to reduce the environmental impact of beef production. However, meat texture is a major determinant of taste and consumer appeal, and a cultured beef product that recapitulates the texture of beef - with marbling, or interspersing of fat within muscle - does not exist yet. A marbled cultured meat product requires co-culture of both muscle (myocyte) and fat (adipocyte) cells on a scaffold with culture conditions that result in successful maturation of both cell types to form muscle and fat tissue. Given that myocytes and adipocytes require distant mechanical cues to successfully propagate and mature, Stephanie will tune scaffold physical properties to enable the simultaneous growth of both cell types and drive the production of cultured marbled beef that has desirable texture and flavor. Improving palatability is critical for cell-cultured beef to become an effective, sustainable replacement that meets the needs of consumers and reduces environmental burden.