The yellow croaker (Larimichthys crocea) is a marine fish that is highly favored for its delectable flavor and nutritional value in various East Asian countries. Because of this very popularity, they are rapidly declining in population.
Currently classified as critically endangered, the yellow croaker shows no signs of recovery in its natural habitats. This raises concerns about whether we will lose this exquisite fish due to human preference.
To tackle this problem, a group of scientists from Zhejiang University (ZJU) in China has proposed an intriguing solution. They have successfully developed lab-grown yellow croaker fish fillets that closely replicate the taste of the natural ones.
Aside from its sweet taste, the yellow croaker is renowned for its abundant protein, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acid content. This is because approximately 80 percent of its body mass consists of fat and muscles. The Chinese researchers assert that their lab-grown fillets possess a comparable nutritional profile to real yellow croaker fillets.
Upon comparing the lab-grown fillets with the authentic ones, the researchers discovered that both had the same muscle-to-fat cell ratio, water content, and other physical characteristics. However, the lab-grown fillets required less effort to chew when consumed.
By inhibiting specific pathways, the researchers were able to promote normal growth and multiplication of muscle cells in the culture. Although the fish meat began to take shape at this point, it lacked the necessary tissue formation to resemble real meat.
To address this issue, the researchers transferred the culture into a 3D scaffold composed of satellite cells and gelatin-based gel, which provided the lab-grown fillets with the desired structure and texture. Finally, the fillets were deemed ready for consumption.
The process of cultivating the lab-grown fish meat took approximately 17 days to achieve a realistic resemblance. It is hoped that these lab-grown fish fillets will play a pivotal role in restoring the yellow croaker population. Furthermore, their success may pave the way for the development of other lab-grown marine meat products.