The exponentially changing world of cultivated meat takes another turn. Making steaks from cultivated meat cells requires a “scaffold” for the cells to adhere to in order to develop a 3-D structure. Now startup Matrix Meats has developed a nanofibre scaffold with some unique properties.
What are the benefits?
One problem with making cultivated steaks is growing several cell types, like fat and muscle, in the one piece of steak. Matrix claim to have solved this problem by selectively altering the stiffness of the fibres in the scaffold. Apparently stiffer fibres promote muscle cell growth while softer fibres promote fat cell growth. So by varying the stiffness it appears that steaks could be grown with fat seams, like conventional steaks. This would significantly improve the appearance, texture and eating quality of cultivated steaks.
As a bonus all of this can be accomplished in a single bioreactor! Picture a bioreactor containing cells in a growth medium and thousands of wafers of scaffolding floating around in the tank. Over time the cells proliferate and differentiate, turning into steaks. Add to this that the nanofibres promote faster growth and cultivated meat could be one step closer to commercial reality.
Matrix are “having conversations with 11 different cell-cultured meat companies globally to develop scaffolds tailored to the cell types they are using”. They claim that they’ll demonstrate a prototype thin piece of steak by the end of 2020.
Similarly to the plantbased sector the cultivated meat industry is definitely maturing, with startups and major companies alike investing time and money in the sector. As more players enter the market, so more other players enter the market, exponentially increasing the resources being devoted to advancing the technology. Another symptom of the maturing market is the increasing company specialisation, from media to bioreactors to growth factors, scaffolds etc.
My prediction is that 2022/23 is going to be a very exciting time for cultivated meat as pilot plants come online and new technologies like the Matrix scaffolding continue to be developed.