Want to eat fish? In the future, it may be possible to 3D print

Recently, the cell culture fish team led by Professor Liu Donghong, Deputy Dean of the School of Biosystems Engineering and Food Science of Zhejiang University, Director of the Future Food Laboratory of the Yangtze River Delta Smart Oasis Innovation Center of Zhejiang University, and Professor Chen Jun of the School of Life Sciences, together with the team of Academician Zhu Beiwei of Dalian Polytechnic University, announced that through stem cell isolation, factory culture and tissue construction technology, the first centimeter-level cell-cultured large yellow croaker tissue simulation fish steak in China was successfully synthesized. The results were published in NPJ Food Science.

Large yellow croaker tissue artificial fish steak. (Photo courtesy of the research group)

The researchers took large yellow croaker as the research object, isolated muscle and fat stem cells with high passage ability, and induced muscle stem cell differentiation by regulating two signaling pathways. At the same time, based on edible gel bionic bionic construction of fish muscle scaffold, three-dimensional culture of muscle fiber bundles, successfully realized the manufacture of tissue cell culture fish meat.

Grown in 17 days, fishy, white and elastic, in the laboratory of Zhejiang University, this cell-cultured large yellow fish meat is no different from similar natural fish meat. Liu Donghong said that the high-quality protein and unsaturated fatty acids contained in marine fish have a positive effect on health, and in the future, this technology may provide broader support for solving the supply of human table meat and animal protein, and has important significance for the protection of marine fish resources.

This achievement was recently publicly announced, and at the appraisal meeting organized by the China Light Industry Federation, the key technology of biosynthetic cell culture of fish meat was recognized by the review team as reaching the international advanced level in the same field.

To “replicate” a piece of fish, you must first find the seed cells.

In the study, the Zhejiang University team found that muscle cells and fat cells accounted for more than eighty percent of the solids of common yellow croaker meat. Therefore, the team screened and sorted muscle stem cells and adipose stem cells from the superior axial muscle and ventral body cavity fat of large yellow croaker as “seeds” for cell culture of fish meat.

With “seeds” and, of course, “soil”, culture media assume this role, providing nutrients for cell proliferation and differentiation. Studies have found that adipose stem cells can proliferate and differentiate well in medium, but muscle cells, which are the main components of meat quality, are difficult to cultivate in vitro.

Chen Jun and Associate Professor Huang Xiao of the School of Life Sciences conducted systematic research on the differentiation process of muscle cells and found two signaling pathways that affect muscle production. To this end, the research team improved the differentiation efficiency of myoblasts by adjusting the composition of the medium.

In addition, culture medium is the most important cost control link in the production process of cell culture meat, and Professor Chen Qihe of the School of Biosystems Engineering and Food Science of Zhejiang University screened the basic medium with low serum, which greatly reduced the cost and provided a basis for large-scale production in the future.

With the growth and differentiation of muscle cells, more and more fish meat is produced, but the fish meat at this time is still only “meat puree”. “At this time, the fish meat is still a loose cell mass without a fixed shape, not the tissue structure of the meat in cognition.” Chen Jun said.

How do you build fish? Xu Enbo, associate researcher at the School of Biosystems Engineering and Food Science of Zhejiang University, simulated the muscle tissue of natural fish by constructing a digital structure model of raw fish blocks.

The growth of fish meat in 3D scaffolds, of course, the production of this 3D printing material is not an easy task, the research team achieved biomimetic growth by adjusting the formula, reducing the printing temperature, and finding edible colloidal materials that can firmly grasp myoblasts. Subsequently, the Zhejiang University team could assemble a tissue-like cell culture fish meat by injecting fat cells.

So, is this a piece of fish?

The researchers further analyzed the shape of the cultured fish steak, and compared the characteristics of the number of cells, the proportion of muscle cells and fat cells, hardness, viscosity and elasticity with the muscle tissue of real yellow croaker.

Cell culture meat is considered to be one of the technologies with the greatest potential to solve the future supply of meat and protein for human tables and reduce the high dependence of cultured meat animals on water resources and land resources.

In the face of such a new technology, Chen Jun believes that the gathering of disciplines is an important foundation.

For the future application of research, Liu Donghong said, “We must also see the hidden technological breakthroughs and innovations from this piece of fish meat, which will also open up a new path for the future development of the food industry.” (Source: Cui Xueqin, China Science News)

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