Improving our understanding of the relative advantages and disadvantages of different cell types for cultivated meat would enable companies to make these decisions more effectively with less duplicative effort.
Stem cells secrete a variety of signaling factors that can influence the behavior of surrounding cells, known as paracrine signals. In high-density bioprocesses, these secreted factors can accumulate to concentrations that can dramatically influence productivity and behavior of neighboring cells. By mapping the secretome of animal myoblasts, adipocytes, and other stem cells used for cultivated meat, a better understanding of which factors influence proliferation, differentiation, and other cellular traits can be obtained. Mapping efforts will inform how to best leverage this knowledge to improve cultivated meat production.
While emerging fermentation-derived ingredient companies often optimize their strain’s productivity in-house, it may be more efficacious for startups to engage contract research organizations with both deep microbial strain development expertise and also intimate familiarity with the unique considerations of the alternative protein sector.
Crop plants used as recombinant protein production hosts could offer benefits of minimal processing, cheaper equipment, and fewer downstream purification costs.
Coordinated efforts to develop standardized, comprehensive research toolkits of meat-relevant species would exponentially accelerate cultivated meat research.
Open-access blueprints would provide a head start on facility design and allow equipment manufacturers and engineering companies to address standard industry needs.
Open-access research into growth factors required for proliferation, maintenance, and differentiation of cell types relevant to cultivated meat will support both academic and industry research efforts. This research could include screening of species-specific growth factors under a variety of conditions and in a variety of cell types to characterize cross-species compatibility, which informs commercial efforts to scale production of the most widely used growth factors. Research should also seek to define optimal concentrations of individual growth factors and cocktails for achieving various cell states or behaviors, as well as understanding interactions between growth factors.
Metabolic and physiological characteristics of microbial strains define the commercial potential of any fermentative process, but only a minimal number of strains have been scaled up for commercial production of alternative protein. To broaden the spectrum of available microorganisms, systematic investigation into the physiology of novel microbial strains is needed to identify strains suitable for fermentation.
A more comprehensive understanding of the processes, structures, and molecular constituents governing meat's organoleptic properties will inform the production of alternative proteins.
For tissue-structured cultivated meat production, the transition from the proliferation phase to differentiation phase may involve seeding cells onto a prefabricated scaffold within a perfusion bioreactor. Medium is then perfused through the cell-laden scaffold, providing nutrients and oxygen as cells differentiate and mature. Computational models are needed to describe fluid flow through scaffolds to better understand mass transfer and shear forces. These models will inform considerations for scaffold materials, geometries, dimensions, fabrication methods, and bioprocess design as well as considerations for the composition and viscosity of the medium.