It’s tiny and inedible • The Registry



Japanese scientists have 3D printed an approximation of one of the country’s specialties, Wagyu beef, in an experiment involving bovine stem cells.

A team from Osaka University extracted bovine satellite cells and stem cells derived from fat tissue from once-living cows to grow muscle, fat and blood vessels in a lab.

After analyzing a slice of the genuine item for its design, the boffins spent two days 3D printing layer-upon-layer of their lab-formed fabric, each a few hundred microns thick, to create a facsimile of Wagyu beef. The overall objective is to study “a promising technology for the manufacture of the desired types of cultured steak-like meats”.

Details of their experiment were published this week in an article in the journal Nature Communications.

The final result ? A 5mm by 10mm piece that looks a bit like the famous pink marbled flesh but is inedible due to the manufacturing process. But it’s a good first effort.


Top and side view of lab-made meat … looks, uh, delicious? Source: Osaka University. Click to enlarge

Cultured meat is nothing new, although it is usually not created in this form. Sergey Brin’s famous $ 250,000 burger consisted of 5 ounces of cultured meat porridge. Now scientists are using 3D printing mechanisms to make more realistic meats, and Wagu is a particular challenge because of its appearance and structure.

Beef is highly prized for its fatty “sashi” marbling. This leads to liquefy in the mouth; fat melts at a temperature lower than your body temperature. The meat is tenderized in some cases by feeding or massaging cows beer, and small steaks (by American standards) can cost hundreds of pounds or dollars.

“By improving this technology, it will be possible not only to reproduce complex meat structures, such as the magnificent Wagyu beef sashi, but also to make subtle adjustments to the fat and muscle components,” said the lead author of the article, Michiya Matsusaki.

The plan is for people to be able to order cultured meat built to their exact desired levels of fat and muscle tissue. Of course, there is the edible problem to overcome, although this is apparently fixable. Custom and designer printed steaks could be the next thing for a millionaire’s table. ®


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