We expect that in the future it will be possible to also use other vegetable proteins to build the scaffolds.
-Prof. Shulamit Levenberg
Researchers from the Technion and Aleph Farms have cultivated meat in a lab using soy protein as scaffolds for bovine tissue.
A major challenge in global sustainability is the rising demand for meat, that leads to increased environmental damage; increased use of antibiotics; depletion of natural resources; and pollution. Now, Technion innovation is offering a way to save the planet and our appetite for steak, at the same time. The solution is in advanced tissue engineering.
Technology for tissue engineering for organ transplants spearheaded by Prof. Shulamit Levenberg is now being applied to growing cultured meat on scaffolds made of soy protein. Soy protein was selected as the scaffold to which the cells adhere and proliferate with the help of myogenesis-related growth factors, similar to the tissue engineering technology developed by Levenberg.
Soy protein, an inexpensive byproduct obtained during the production of soy oil, is readily available and rich in protein. It is a porous material, and its structure promotes cell and tissue growth. Soy protein’s tiny holes are suitable for cell adherence, division, and proliferation. It also has larger holes that transmit oxygen and nutrients essential for building muscle tissue. Furthermore, soy protein scaffolds for growing cultured meat can be produced in different sizes and shapes, as required.
The cultured meat in this research underwent testing that confirmed its resemblance to slaughtered steak in texture and taste. According to Levenberg, “We expect that in the future it will be possible to also use other vegetable proteins to build the scaffolds. However, the current research using soy protein is important in proving the feasibility of producing meat from several types of cells on plant-based platforms, which increases its similarity to conventional bovine meat.”
Aleph Farms is the first company to successfully grow slaughter-free steaks, using original technology developed by Prof. Levenberg and her team. Levenberg is the company’s founding partner and chief scientist. The research was carried out by doctoral student Tom Ben-Arye and Dr. Yulia Shandalov.
Prof. Levenberg, holder of the Sylvia and Stanley Shirvan Chair in Cancer Research, is head of the Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Lab, and the 3D Bioprinting Center, the Rina and Avner Schneur Center for Diabetes Research, and Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering.