The science behind the world’s first cultivated steak — grown directly from cells

‘Nature Food’ publishes a paper on an underpinning principle developed by the Technion Institute of Technology, Israel and Aleph Farms.

This principle is integrated into the development of Aleph’s technological platform — the company behind the world’s first cultivated steak, revealed in December 2018.

Prototype of cultivated steaks from December 2018: ©Aleph Farms; Immunofluorescence: ©Technion Institute of Technology, Israel.

A research paper which was published today in Nature Food by the researchers of the Technion Institute of Technology, Israel and Aleph Farms, discusses some of the underlying innovations adapted to the technological platform of Aleph Farms. In December 2018, the food company made history when it revealed the world’s first slaughter-free steaks, cultivated outside of the animal’s body under controlled conditions. The exploratory research, published in Nature Food, was led by Aleph’s Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Prof. Shulamit Levenberg — a leading scientist in the field of Tissue Engineering. Levenberg was selected by ‘Scientific American’ as one of the world’s 50 leading scientists and her discoveries in medical sciences have left a significant impact on the scientific community worldwide.

Together with her team at the Technion, Levenberg has set an infrastructure and innovative disciplines for a scalable and cost-efficient process in which various cell types are cultivated on a plant-based matrix, also called as “scaffold” — an important discipline which was transferred and adapted to the company’s requirements for a commercial product (non-GMO animal cells, animal-free scaffold and animal-free growth medium).

Aleph Farms integrates elements of nature to safely grow delicious meat products, without slaughtering animals and with far less impact on the environment. This allows people to continue to enjoy the delicious steak they’ve always loved, knowing they are making an ethical choice for the world around them and leaving a healthier planet for future generations. The technological capability relies on reproducing under controlled conditions in a scalable and cost-efficient manner, a natural phenomenon which occurs in nature. This phenomenon is called ‘Tissue Regeneration’ and it occurs when tissues renew and grow in order to repair tissues in the body.

Through a nature-inspired production method that lasts for 3–4 weeks, Aleph Farms cultivates the cells responsible for this process in an animal-free environment, letting the cells to naturally expand, as they would have expanded in the animal’s body. The cells adhere, multiply and grow on an animal-free “scaffold”, a substitute to the extra-cellular matrix that provides the infrastructure on which the cells grow, proliferate and continue to expand — forming a slice of beef steak outside the animal, under controlled conditions — similar to how hydroponic lettuce grows directly from its seeds under controlled conditions.

Cellular agriculture, which is similar in its concept to vertical farming, serves as a leading solution to solve some of the most fundamental challenges that humanity is facing today. The way most of our food gets to our plate and what happens afterwards, has been connecting many concerns and challenges that we are, as a society, experiencing today and our future generations will experience tomorrow. Our obligation to actively seek solutions to feed and nurture a clean planet where everything can thrive, has led to the transfer of nature-inspired design disciplines originally developed in the medical world, into food systems. This transfer over the years, has been advancing our knowledge and capability to establish a resilient and wholesome food supply with healthy and delicious products, that don’t involve the exacerbation of our resources or threats to our public health.

Thank you to the authors of the historical paper: Tom Ben-Arye, Yulia Shandalov, Shahar Ben-Shaula, Shira Landaua, Yedidya Zagurya, Iris Ianovicia and Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion Institute of Technology, Israel and Neta Lavon of Aleph Farms.

Textured soy protein scaffolds enable generation of 3D bovine skeletal muscle tissue for cell-based meat.