Scientists in Japan have 3D printed an approximation of one of the nation's delicacies, Wagyu beef, in an experiment involving bovine stem cells.
A team at Osaka University extracted bovine satellite cells and adipose-derived stem cells from formerly live cows to grow muscle, fat, and blood vessels in a laboratory.
After analyzing a slice of the genuine article for its design, the boffins spent two days 3D printing layer upon layer of their lab-formed tissue, each just hundreds of microns thick, to create a facsimile of Wagyu beef. The overall goal being to investigate "a promising technology for the fabrication of the desired types of steak-like cultured meats."
Details of their experiment were published this week in a paper in the journal Nature Communications.
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The end result? A 5mm-by-10mm morsel that looks somewhat like the famous marbled pink flesh yet is inedible due to the manufacturing process. But it's a good first effort.
Top and side view of the lab-made meat ... looks, er, yummy? Source: Osaka University. Click to enlarge
Cultured meat is nothing new, though it's typically not created in this form. Sergey Brin's famous $250,000 burger was 5oz of cultured meat mush. Now scientists are employing 3D printing mechanics to make more realistic looking meats, and Wagyu is a special challenge due to its appearance and structure.
The beef is highly prized because of its "sashi" fat marbling, and that it melts in your mouth. The meat is tenderized in some cases by feeding the cows beer or massaging them, and small (by American standards) steaks can run into hundreds of quid or bucks.
"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,” the paper's senior author Michiya Matsusaki said.
The plan is for people to be able to order cultured meat built to their exact desired levels of fat and muscle tissue. Of course, there's the edibility problem to overcome, though that's apparently fixable. Custom, designer printed steaks could be the next thing for a millionaire's dinner table. ®