Scientists create world’s first 3D-printed, lab-grown Wagyu beef steak

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AUTHOR: Stef Bottinelli
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Scientists at Osaka University have developed a technique to create the world’s first 3D-printed, lab-grown Wagyu beef steak, using bovine stem cells.

Whilst cell-based meat is being developed all over the world, the intricacies of the structure of Wagyu beef have so far made it difficult for scientists to recreate it in a lab and use a 3D printer to produce it.

The fat, muscle and blood vessels of Wagyu beef create a marbling effect, which the scientists have been able to reproduce by arranging the meat fibres in three dimensions. 

“Because actual meat is an aligned assembly of the fibers connected to the tendon for the actions of contraction and relaxation, tendon-gel integrated bioprinting was developed to construct tendon-like gels. In this study, a total of 72 fibers comprising 42 muscles, 28 adipose tissues, and 2 blood capillaries were constructed by tendon-gel integrated bioprinting and manually assembled to fabricate steak-like meat with a diameter of 5 mm and a length of 10 mm inspired by a meat cut.”, reads the study authored by Dong-Hee Kang and Michiya Matsukaki, scientists at the Division of Applied Chemistry, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University and published in Nature Communications.

The study, published on Tuesday (24.08.2021) does not mention whether the 3D-printed, lab-grown Wagyu steak will be commercialised at a later date, but the authors stress that with the current spotlight on environmental issues, public health and animal welfare, their technique might be used for the commercial production of meat in the future.

“The developed tendon-gel integrated bioprinting here could be a promising technology for the fabrication of the desired types of steak-like cultured meats.”, the study states.

High quality Wagyu is the most expensive type of beef in the world, selling at as much as just under £150 per pound. Adult Wagyu cows can cost over £20,000 each. 

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