Cultivated meat research focuses primarily on muscle fibers and fat cells. However, other cell types serve functions that are often under appreciated in their relevance to cultivated meat. Co-culture methods with various support cells could solve a variety of challenges on the road to developing affordable, high-quality cultivated meat.
A handful of companies and researchers are developing scaffold materials for use in various steps of the cultivated meat production process, but to date the topic of scaffolding has been largely overshadowed by the challenge of producing cell mass at scale. This is a topic in need of much more research and development as the industry matures in order to enable the development of products that have meat-like structure and texture, which will be more appealing to consumers than unstructured meat products.
Academic researchers or consortia consisting of several cultivated meat companies should undertake research aimed at understanding metabolic pathways and fluxes within cultivated meat-relevant cell types. The outputs of this research could be used to improve the efficiency of media optimization efforts and to enhance the organoleptic and nutritional properties of cultivated meat products.
As the alternative seafood industry scales up, a low-cost and abundant source of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids will become necessary. Several means of producing these compounds have been investigated and commercialized, but additional innovation is needed to build a robust and scalable supply chain. Methods that would benefit from additional research include precision fermentation and cell-free systems.
Preventing oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids before and after addition to alternative seafood products
Deeper fundamental knowledge of the causes and prevention of oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids before, during, and after addition to alternative seafood products is needed to improve their nutritional and organoleptic properties. While several approaches to prevent oxidation of unsaturated lipids in conventional seafood products have been developed, antioxidation methods must be tailored to the formulations and processing of alternative seafood products, or perhaps new methods must be developed altogether.
- Bioprocess design
- Crop development
- End product formulation & manufacturing
- End Products
- Host strain development
- Ingredient optimization
- Raw Materials, Ingredients, & Inputs
- Target molecule selection
Although fish are one of the best dietary sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (FAs), these compounds are mostly bioaccumulated from a fish’s diet rather than synthesized de novo. Consistent with this, studies have found evidence of reduced omega-3 content in fish as a result of replacing fish-based feed with plant-based feed. Therefore, for cultivated fish to compete with conventionally-produced products, it will be necessary to identify cost-effective strategies for increasing the content of nutritionally-important omega-3 FAs in cultivated fish.
A number of published studies have focused on scaffolds for cultivated meat (see Related Efforts) yet, to our knowledge, no studies have specifically attempted to formulate scaffolds for fish or tested growth of fish cells on scaffolds developed for terrestrial meat. Because fish uniquely differ from terrestrial meat in structure, research aimed specifically at developing and testing scaffolds for fish products would advance the industry. Both scaffolding materials as well as methods for achieving the correct three-dimensional structure should be investigated.
Fibers from non-traditional texturization techniques like electrospinning, jet spinning, or blow spinning could impart texture throughout a product even if they don’t comprise the bulk of the end product, which may render these approaches economically viable for enhancing texture within a bulk product even at a relatively small scale.
Improving methods for adapting cells to suspension culture can facilitate cell line development and bioprocess design for cultivated meat.
Species-specific genomic studies enabling assay development for regulatory standards and cell line optimization
A suite of assays and genomic knowledge exists for humans and commonly used laboratory species such as mice or fruit flies. However, the same species-specific infrastructure does not exist equally across the species used in cultivated meat, with an especially large gap in seafood species. Commercialized, standardized assays for species identification such as Short Tandem Repeat (STR) or Cytochrome C Oxidase I (COI) assays are needed. Additionally, richer genetic datasets, including thorough genome annotations that facilitate identification of safe harbor loci, can broadly accelerate cell line optimization studies.