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Beef paddies – Nature Reviews Materials

Meat is an important protein source in much of the world, but traditional livestock farming has a massive environmental impact on both carbon emissions and usable land. Cultured meat products — made in a lab by growing and differentiating cells on a scaffold — are one way to bypass these issues. Now writing in Matter, Sangmin Lee, Jinkee Hong and colleagues use rice as a grain-based scaffold to cultivate beef muscle and fat cells, forming a beef-infused rice that they envision as a step towards a nutritionally complete, sustainable food.

Precursor cells of beef skeletal muscle (myoblasts) and fat (adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells) were then cultured on the rice, where they successfully differentiated into muscle fibres (myotubes) and fat cells (adipocytes). Although the muscle fibres grew heartily, aided by the stiff structure of the coated grains, fat cells have a stricter set of conditions for differentiation and grew less well.