Creativity and ingenuity can also benefit from unexpected tools.
Lego blocks have proven surprisingly important in food science, a recent discovery reveals. A group of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Alabama used Lego blocks to tackle a critical challenge in growing meat in the lab: its texture.
In an article published by the monthly gourmet magazine Gambero Rosso, it is explained how the muscles, fat cells, and connective cells within an animal organism grow together in a structured environment. However, in an in vitro context, it is necessary to grow each component separately before joining them, which results in an amorphous growth of the cells. This is where the scaffolding, which in the current case takes on the name “Lego” comes into play. Using colorful Lego bricks and a Lego Power Functions engine, the researchers created a device that turns starch fibers into a durable structure on which lab-grown meat can grow.
Starch, which is generally thought of as an inexpensive and edible scaffold, presents a challenge. To be used effectively in cultured meats, starch fibers must be reduced to very small sizes. This task is entrusted to a device called an electrospinner, which is usually used for materials such as nylon and plastic, but not for starch. To operate the electric screw, part of the device must be immersed in a wet solution of water and alcohol.
However, one hitch emerged: electrical stabilizers are usually made of metal, but in this case, a non-conductive material was required. The solution was to create a power pin out of plastic, and that’s where the Lego bricks and the Lego Power Functions motor come in. These components made it possible to build a functional electrospinning device.
Experimental success has been achieved thanks to Lego bricks, but we are now faced with the challenge of bringing this technology to an industrial scale. It will be necessary to resize the plastic electric screwdriver and find more structured solutions than Lego bricks to ensure large-scale production.
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