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Mold On The Menu: Scientists Alter Fungi Genes To Create Surprising Meat Replacement – Utilizing ‘gene editing system’ that created ‘alterations’ in the ‘mold’s genome’

What To Know:

  • Scientists are using fungi to create a sustainable food alternative.
  • By altering fungi genes, researchers created a burger patty made of mold.
  • Gene editing boosted the food’s iron content, which gives meat its flavor and color.

BERKELEY, Calif. — Forget about ordering that juicy steak from your favorite restaurant — how about some mold? In a study that could transform the culinary world, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California-Berkeley have unlocked the potential of fungi to create what they’re calling sustainable, healthy, and flavor-rich food alternatives.

With animal-free dairy and vegetarian meat substitutes already reshaping consumer choices, this new research dives deeper into biotechnology’s role in producing environmentally friendly and cruelty-free products.

Fungi, a kingdom of organisms celebrated for its diverse and nutritious offerings, stands at the forefront of this food revolution. Vayu Hill-Maini, a chef-turned-bioengineer and an affiliate in the Biosciences Area at Berkeley Lab, alongside a team of researchers, sunk their teeth into an ambitious project to explore how modifying the genes in fungi can lead to the creation of novel flavors and textures in food.

Utilizing the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system, the team made precise alterations to the koji mold’s genome. Their efforts resulted in an increased production of heme, an iron-based molecule responsible for meat’s distinctive flavor and color, and ergothioneine, a fungi-exclusive antioxidant linked to cardiovascular health benefits.