Weizmann Institute researchers stumbled upon a way to dramatically speed up muscle regeneration for producing meat from cultivated animal cells.

By Diana Blatter, Israel21c

In the future, the ideal steak will be sizzling, charbroiled – and probably made from cultivated meat. However, companies that produce cell-based meat are challenged to make production affordable.

Recently, researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science stumbled upon a solution that could cut the cost of cultivated meat in half.

Tamar Eigler, a post-doctorate fellow in Prof. Eldad Tzahor’s molecular cell biology lab, was experimenting with cultured muscle stem cells.

When Tzahor looked into Eigler’s microscope, he was surprised to see that the cells had begun fusing into tiny fibers that thickened quickly. Within hours, large muscle fibers had formed that looked like a slice of steak.

The phenomenon was explained by Weizmann biomolecular scientist Ori Avinoam as the process of muscle regeneration.

In an article published in Developmental Cell, Avinoam explains that when muscle stem cells called myoblasts are exposed to a small molecule that blocks the enzyme ERK, the cells start differentiating and fusing into tiny fibers. This leads to the activation of another enzyme that begins muscle regeneration.

Follow-up experiments showed that the same process works in several species of farm animals, including chickens, cows and sheep.

“Since all muscles in our bodies and those of other animals, including cattle, are produced by the same biological processes, our findings may be applicable both to the study of muscle regeneration and to the production of cultivated meat,” Tzahor said.

The three researchers have formed ProFuse Technology, a company set to slash the cost of cultivated meat by accelerating muscle fiber growth, the process that Eigler serendipitously discovered. It’s based in the Fresh Start food tech incubator in northern Israel.

Yeda Research and Development, the Weizmann Institute’s technology transfer company, granted ProFuse exclusive rights to the technology and to the patent covering this research.

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