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Researchers from Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have developed a novel technology that uses asparagus to create an edible scaffolding structure for cell-based meat production, according to a study published in the NPJ Science of Food journal.


The approach aims to address one of the key technical challenges facing the cell-based meat industry: achieving the desired texture and structure of cultured meat products. By leveraging the unique properties of asparagus, the A*STAR team has created a biomaterial scaffold that provides an optimal growth environment for muscle and fat cells to proliferate and differentiate.


Lily Heng, lead author of the study, said: "The asparagus-derived scaffold material offers an interesting new option for cultivated meat producers. It provides a natural, edible and functionally suitable substrate to support the development of meat-like tissues."


The key advantages of using asparagus-derived materials for cell-based meat scaffolding stem from the unique structural and biochemical properties of the asparagus plant. Asparagus is rich in cellulose, hemicellulose and other polysaccharides that can be leveraged to create a highly functional biomaterial scaffold.


"Asparagus has a naturally fibrous and porous structure that provides an excellent growth matrix for muscle and fat cells," explained Heng. "The plant's biochemical composition also contains various proteins, vitamins, and minerals that can support cellular proliferation and differentiation."


During the development process, the researchers extracted and purified key components from the asparagus plant to engineer a specialised scaffold material. The asparagus scaffold was designed to be fully edible and biodegradable, addressing the limitations of synthetic or animal-derived scaffolding materials, which can raise food safety and sustainability concerns.


"The edible and biodegradable nature of the asparagus scaffold means it can be seamlessly integrated into the cultivated meat matrix, providing a truly 'green' and consumer-friendly solution," added Heng.


Ongoing research is focused on further optimising the asparagus scaffold formulation and manufacturing processes to improve scalability and performance. The researchers are also exploring ways to synergistically combine the asparagus scaffold with advanced computational modelling techniques for even greater control over the cultivated meat production process.


The researchers believe that this combination of optimised biomaterial design and quantum-inspired molecular simulations could enable unprecedented levels of control and performance in cell-based meat manufacturing.


Heng added: "By integrating these different technological approaches, we may be able to rapidly develop superior cell lines and growth environments for cultivating high-quality meat tissues.”


As the cultivated meat industry works to achieve cost parity and scale up production, innovations like the asparagus scaffold could play an important role. The ability to engineer authentic meat structures with greater efficiency and precision may be a key factor in unlocking the commercial viability of this emerging field.


"Asparagus may seem like an unlikely hero in the cultivated meat revolution, but its unique properties make it a surprisingly well-suited biomaterial for this application," concluded Heng. "We're excited to see how this technology can help drive the growth and success of the cellular agriculture industry. There's still much work to be done, but these initial results are promising."


The researchers are now focused on further refining and scaling their scaffold platform to support the growing needs of the cell-ag sector.


#Singapore #ASTAR

Asparagus-based scaffolding breakthrough could boost cell-based meat production

Phoebe Fraser

6 June 2024

Asparagus-based scaffolding breakthrough could boost cell-based meat production

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