Nav: Home

Building starch backbones for lab-grown meat using Lego pieces

March 26, 2019

A new technique to spin starch fibers using Lego pieces could have future applications for lab-grown "clean" meat, according to a team of food scientists from Penn State and the University of Alabama.

"There's a lot of interest in natural fibers," said Gregory Ziegler, professor and director of graduate studies, Department of Food Science at Penn State. "Starch is one of the least expensive natural fibers out there. Nobody had been able to electrospin pure starch fibers before. But we figured out a way to do that using this wet electrospinning technique."

To produce fine starch fibers using electrospinning, electricity is applied to a starch solution as it dispenses from a nozzle. The electrical field that forms between the nozzle and a rotating collection drum draws the starch into long threads. In wet electrospinning, the drum is submerged in a bath of alcohol and water to help congeal the fibers.

In a study recently published in Food Hydrocolloids, the researchers built an inexpensive electrospinning device partially using the popular children's toy Lego.

"The reason we chose Lego is we're going to have water and ethanol in there and we don't want the device to be conductive," said Ziegler. "The plastic was perfect."

By altering the drum rotation speed and the amount of ethanol in the electrospinning bath, the researchers optimized fiber alignment in the starch mats. They also found that mats with better aligned fibers were stronger than those with a crisscrossed array.

Starch fiber mats have potential biomedical and food applications, including for lab-grown "cultured" meat. Cultured meat is reported to use less land, water and antibiotics to produce compared to traditional farming practices, and according to Ziegler, there is growing interest in such meat.

To culture meat, animal muscle cells are cultivated in a nutrient-rich broth. If no structural support is provided, the cells grow without organization and resemble ground beef. It is more challenging to grow a steak-like product because the muscle cells must grow on a scaffold of appropriate size and alignment to form the characteristic texture consumers expect of a filet mignon or T-bone.

Now, natural starch fiber mats could provide scaffolds for growing meat cells.

"We've been able to align our scaffolding that could grow aligned muscle cells," said Ziegler. "A lot of scaffoldings that have been put out there for biomedical applications have synthetic plastic fibers. Who wants to eat plastic, right? Even if it's biodegradable, people don't want plastic in their meat. Here we have starch, and it just comes from corn. The idea is we could make a nice edible clean scaffold for our clean meat."

Ziegler says the next step is to test if muscle cells will grow on the starch mats and whether they develop in alignment with the fibers.

The researchers are exploring ways to make starch fibers in specific patterns using 3D-printing technology. They also plan to scale up their equipment to produce larger quantities of the fibers.
-end-
This paper was originally published in December 2018 ahead of print in the May 2019 issue of Food Hydrocolloids.

Other researchers working on the project were Hui Wang, doctoral student in food science at Penn State and Lingyan Kong, assistant professor of human nutrition and hospitality management at the University of Alabama.

Penn State

Related Water Articles:

Source water key to bacterial water safety in remote Northern Australia
In the wet-dry topics of Australia, drinking water in remote communities is often sourced from groundwater bores.
Our water cycle diagrams give a false sense of water security
Pictures of the earth's water cycle used in education and research throughout the world are in urgent need of updating to show the effects of human interference, according to new analysis by an international team of hydrology experts.
Water management helped by mathematical model of fresh water lenses
In this paper, the homeostasis of water lenses was explained as an intricate interaction of the following physical factors: infiltration to the lens from occasional (sporadic) rains, permanent evaporation from the water table, buoyancy due to a density contrast of the fresh and saline water, and the force of resistance to water motion from the dune sand.
The age of water
Groundwater in Egypt's aquifers may be as much as 200,000 years old and that's important to know as officials in that country seek to increasing the use of groundwater, especially in the Eastern Desert, to mitigate growing water stress and allow for agricultural projects.
Water that never freezes
Can water reach minus 263 degrees Celsius without turning into ice?
Peanuts that do more with less water
Researchers are studying peanut varieties to find a 'water conservation' trait.
Molecular adlayer produced by dissolving water-insoluble nanographene in water
Even though nanographene is insoluble in water and organic solvents, Kumamoto University and Tokyo Institute of Technology researchers have found a way to dissolve it in water.
Water-worlds are common: Exoplanets may contain vast amounts of water
Scientists have shown that water is likely to be a major component of those exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) which are between two to four times the size of Earth.
Artificial intelligence saves water for water users associations
A research group at the University of Cordoba has developed a model based on artificial intelligence techniques that can predict how much water each water user will use.
In desert trials, next-generation water harvester delivers fresh water from air
UC Berkeley scientists who last year built a prototype harvester to extract water from the air using only the power of the sun have scaled up the device to see how much water they can capture in arid conditions in Arizona.
More Water News and Water Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.