University of Vermont Researchers Creating Cultivated Meat Scaffolds with Algae

University of Vermont using algae

As the market for cultured meat expands, so does the demand for inexpensive inputs that will enable the mass production of cultured cells. Scaffolds are extremely expensive and still heavily rely on animal-based media like collagen and gelatin to supply the underlying framework for cell adhesion.

Dr. Rachael Floreani and Irfan Tahir, researchers at the University of Vermont (UVM), are using algae-based polymers to construct cell-supporting structures in an effort to develop a scaffolding technology that is really animal-free and reasonably priced, according to UVM.

Dr. Floreani and Tahir just released an open-source study outlining how such scaffolds, created from plant-based hydrogels, may be mechanically “tuned” to produce cultured meat. They did this while working out of the University’s Engineered Biomaterials Research Laboratory (EBRL).

“Scaffolding recreates the microenvironment that the cells grow on inside an animal’s body. Our lab has expertise in scaffolding… We design hydrogels and other kinds of materials that are beneficial for the cells to grow,” said Tahir, a Ph.D. candidate and New Harvest Fellow.

“If we want to produce cultivated meat at scale, we need scalable materials… instead of extracting collagen for scaffolding from millions of animals, we need to turn to more sustainable sources such as seaweed, which can grow in both fresh and saltwater,” he added.

In addition to algae, other businesses are using soy protein, nanofibers, grass, and spinach leaves as new scaffolding materials.

An Alternative to Fetal Bovine Serum

The Fetal Bovine Serum, an efficient but incredibly unsustainable source of liquid cell growth media, is another product of UVM researchers’ ongoing efforts to replace. To assist in the creation of more moral and antibiotic-free cell growth factors, Tahir and the EBRL have teamed up with Multus Media and Future Fields.

“The source for the liquid media is called FBS, fetal bovine serum, which comes from a calf… It’s obtained in an unethical manner and it’s extremely expensive, but it works so well because it’s a soup of nutrients that allows the baby to grow. This soup of nutrients has growth factors, insulin, everything that cells need to grow and thrive. There’s a huge movement in the field to try and replace this. Even in our lab, we’re working with alternatives so that we don’t have to obtain it in a cruel way,” said Tahir.

Source: “University of Vermont Researchers are Using Algae to Create Better Cultivated Meat Scaffolds” by vegconomist

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