Edible 3D Printed Inks for Scaffolding of Cultured Meat

The reproduction of animal muscle cells in vitro is what creates lab-grown meat. This method has the potential to produce eco-friendly, ethical meat that is both nutritious and free from the harmful effects of the meat sector. Scientists from the National University of Singapore, National University of Singapore Suzhou Research Institute, China, and the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China have developed a new method to produce cultured meat (CM) of an appealing texture using new low-cost 3D printing inks as scaffolding. 

Scaffold Material: Plant Proteins

Research showed that skeletal muscles cells (bovine, porcine) were made using 3D scaffolds. The scaffold cells are essential to preserve the product’s structural integrity and create the perfect texture by separating cell layers to ensure it grows evenly. It does not have to have high tensile strength, but it must be edible and can absorb into the meat.  Fibrous scaffolds ‘resemble the in vivo muscle tissue structure’ and are therefore of great potential in the production of CM. Researchers  chose cereal prolamins (a group of plant storage proteins) present in ryes and cereals, to produce fully edible fibrous scaffolds, which they coloured with beet to improve the resemblance to meat.

Photo credit: Jie Sun/Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

EHD printing was used to make the scaffolds

The scaffolds were produced using Electrohydrodynamic (EHD), printing by the researchers. This printing method is high-resolution. An electric field drives the printed liquid: The field causes mobile ions to accumulate in a polarizable fluid. The electric forces cause a Taylor cone to form around the meniscus (the curve at one end of a container). Stress caused by surface charge repulsion Liquid to be emitted Deposited droplets can have a diameter of as little as 240 nm and spatial accuracy as high as hundreds of meters.

Why is it important?

These fibrous scaffolds made from 3D printing inks were found to be highly effective for the production and preservation of cultured meats. Professor Sun of the University of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China, summed up the importance of the experiment: “This is a novel and disruptive idea to mass produce cultured meat. Using nutrients from food waste to print scaffolds not only uses and increases the value of the food waste but also alleviates the pressure on the environment from animal agriculture.”

EHD printing is an emerging technology used with 3D printing inks

EHD printing is the process of printing ink; (C) shows how the nozzle prepares to eject the ink. (Photo credit: Neil Basson/Free Volume of Electrospun Organic-Inorganic Copolymers

Currently, cultured meat’s high price is due to the lack of nutrient media for muscle cells. This is still derived from animal proteins. Future research will allow for the development of plant extracts that can provide nutrients to reduce the cost and increase the quality of cultured meat. Get meatIt makes it more affordable.” Professor Sun concludes.

This experiment might remind you of similar schemes, for example 3D Treats’ cakes using FDM printing or Aleph Farms’ project to make 3D printed lab-grown steak. This experiment is described in detail HERE.

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