As discussed earlier, cell culture media provides the essential nutrients and growth factors required for animal cells to grow and proliferate. The creation of this suitable environment for the cells to grow and mature into meat tissue is a key challenge. In this article, we will deep dive into cultivated meat scaffolding where we discuss the materials and methods used to support and guide the growth of cells.
Scaffolding provides a framework for the cells to attach to and grow on and can also help to mimic the texture and composition of real meat. There are several different materials and methods used for cultivated meat scaffolding, each with their own pros and cons.
One commonly used material for scaffolding is hydrogel. Hydrogels are 3D network of polymer chains that can be designed to have similar mechanical properties to meat tissue. They are water based and have high permeability for oxygen, closely resembling soft tissues of the body. Hydrogels can be formed into various shapes and sizes and can be customized to provide specific properties that are needed for different types of meat. It may be dissolved into a mixture of cell culture media and cells for cell attachment and spreading as well. However, hydrogels are limited in scale, and it is unclear how feasible it can be used for cultivated meat production at scale.
Another emerging technology for scaffolding is decellularization. It involves removing the cells and nucleic acids from the tissue while leaving behind the native extracellular matrix (ECM), which provides a scaffold for new cells to grow on. Decellularized ECM can provide a natural environment for cells to grow in by preparing the necessary structural and biochemical cues for the cells to differentiate into meat tissue. The supply is usually limited and thus, might be costly.
There are also several methods used for creating scaffolds for cultivated meat. Leveraging on 3D printing, scaffolds can be created by design which allows for precise control over the size and shape of the structure. Another versatile and low-cost technique is electrospinning, which involves using an electric field to create nanofibers that can be used as a scaffold.
To sum up, scaffolding is another crucial aspect of cultivated meat production that plays a critical role in creating a realistic and sustainable meat product. By providing a suitable environment for cells to grow, scaffolding helps to address some of the key challenges facing the cultivated meat industry - texture and flavour. As we witness greater development in tissue engineering, the field of cultivated meat production will be improved.