Lab-grown meat made with magnetic fields could dramatically boost efficiency
Scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have engineered a new way of growing synthetic meat by zapping animal cells with a magnet, according to a press release by the institution published on Monday. The novel technique will reduce reliance on animal products while also being greener, cleaner, safer, and more cost-effective.
Using other animal products
Today’s method of producing lab-grown meat involves using other animal products, which largely defeats the purpose. Current cell-based meat production methods require that animal cells are fed animal serum to help them grow and proliferate.
Even worse, this serum usually consists of fetal bovine serum, which is a mixture harvested from the blood of fetuses excised from pregnant cows slaughtered in the dairy or meat industries.
Other methods to promote cell growth are through the use of drugs or genetic engineering, which are equally complicated and possibly unhealthy. These complexities increase the cost of lab-grown meat alternatives and limit the manufacturing scale, interfering with the commercial viability of cell-based meat.
To overcome this challenge, a multidisciplinary research team led by Associate Professor Alfredo Franco-Obregón, who is from the NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology and the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, conceived of an unconventional method of using magnetic pulses to stimulate the growth of cell-based meat, thus culturing myogenic stem cells, which are found in skeletal muscle and bone marrow tissue.
“In response to a short 10-minute exposure to the magnetic fields, the cells release a myriad of molecules that have regenerative, metabolic, anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting properties. These substances are part of what is known as the muscle “secretome” (for secreted factors) and are necessary for the growth, survival and development of cells into tissues. We are very excited about the possibility that magnetically-stimulated secretome release may one day replace the need for FBS in the production of cultured meat,” Franco-Obregón explained.
A safe and convenient harvesting method
“The growth-inducing secretomes can be harvested in the lab safely and conveniently, and also at low cost. This way, the myogenic stem cells will act as a sustainable and green bioreactor to produce the nutrients-rich secretomes for growing cell-based meat at scale for consumption. The muscle knows how to produce what it needs to grow and develop - it simply needs a little bit of encouragement when it is outside its owner. This is what our magnetic fields can provide," added the researcher.
The invention can also be used for applications in regenerative medicine. The team of researchers used the secreted proteins to treat unhealthy cells with promising outcomes. They found that these proteins helped to accelerate the recovery and growth of unhealthy cells, indicating the new technique’s potential in helping to cure injured cells and speed up a patient's recovery.
A patent has been filed for the technology, and the researchers are also seeking to commercialize it. The study was published in the August 2022 issue of the scientific journal Biomaterials.
Dr. Shah explained how he and his team made significant advances in translational cell therapy, successfully developing cellular treatments for cancer.