Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Glutenin in Wheat Promise for Growing Muscle and Fat Layers


With the world’s population constantly growing, finding sustainable and efficient ways to meet our protein needs becomes increasingly important. The cultivated meat, also known as lab-grown meat, has emerged as a promising solution. This meat is produced by growing animal muscle and fat cells in controlled laboratory environments, offering potential benefits like reduced environmental impact and improved animal welfare. But let’s uncover how this new research deploying glutenin in wheat promises to grow muscles and fat layers.

Researchers must find cost-effective and readily available materials to support cell growth and structure to make cultivated meat viable. This is where a recent study published in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering offers exciting news. The research team, led by Ya Yao and John Yuen, Jr., successfully used a non-allergenic wheat protein called glutenin to grow both striated muscle and flat fat layers, paving the way for more realistic and textured cultivated meat products.

The Need for Scaffolds in Cultivated Meat Production

Imagine tiny animal cells floating around in a lab dish. It wouldn’t be meaty. This is where scaffolds come in. These structures provide a base for the cells to attach and grow, mimicking the natural environment of muscle and fat tissues. Ideally, these scaffolds should be:

  • Edible: So they can be consumed along with the cultivated meat.
  • Abundant and inexpensive: To make the process cost-effective and scalable.
  • Biocompatible: Not harmful to the cells or the consumer.

Related: Helping Green Roof Sustainability by Epic Mycorrhizal Fungi

Glutenin in Wheat is a Promising Plant-Based Candidate

Plant proteins are attractive options for scaffolds as they tick all the boxes mentioned above. Previous research has shown the successful use of the protein glutenin in wheat to grow cow skeletal muscle cells. However, there was a challenge: texture. The muscle cells needed to form aligned fibers to resemble meat, similar to what you find in a juicy steak. Additionally, incorporating fat layers was essential for replicating the composition of traditional meat products.

The Study’s Approach and Findings

The researchers set out to develop plant-based films with glutenin that could support both textured muscle and fat layers. They isolated glutenin from wheat gluten and created two types of films: flat and ridge-patterned. Mouse cells destined to become skeletal muscle were deposited onto these films and incubated for two weeks.

The results were encouraging.

  • The cells grew and multiplied on both types of films, although less efficiently than a commonly used animal-derived scaffold (gelatin). The researchers acknowledge that optimization is needed to improve cell attachment to the glutenin films.
  • More importantly, cells grown on the patterned films formed long, parallel bundles, mimicking the fiber structure of actual muscle tissue.
  • In another experiment, mouse fat cells were deposited onto flat glutenin films. These cells proliferate and differentiate, producing visible deposits of fat and collagen, replicating fat tissue.

The ability of the glutenin in wheat to support the growth of both textured muscle and fat layers is an essential step toward cultivated meat development. This research suggests that gluten-based scaffolds could create more realistic and appealing cultivated meat products. Additionally, using a non-allergenic wheat protein offers potential benefits for consumers with gluten sensitivities. While further research is needed to refine the process and optimize cell attachment, this study provides a promising glimpse into the future of cultivated meat.

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