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Designer Dairy Products

Synthetic Biologist Uses Body Samples to Make Human Bacteria Cheese

— September 22, 2012 — Tech
Sissel Tolaas, an artist and scent researcher, and Christina Agapakis, a synthetic biologist, took samples from the toes, noses, bellybuttons and armpits of 71 people for the purposes of making human bacteria cheese.

The project was initiated when the researchers came to the realization that the ecological community that resides on human skin is strikingly similar to the microbes normally found in cheese.

To further their investigation, the pair took skin bacteria samples and cultivated them in unpasteurized milk to produce human bacteria cheese with unique odor characteristics. Tolaas notes that "smell is one of those senses where context can play a huge role." For instance, many people would consider the pungent smell from a wheel of fine Limburger cheese to be pleasant, while also being repulsed by the smell of a sweaty foot. This is in spite of the fact that both smells are caused by almost identical species of bacteria.

In their continued research, Tolaas and Agapakis hope to one day develop a collection of special microbes that they can use to isolate specific characteristics from for the purposes of making designer cheeses. Let's just hope that they clearly mark their armpit and bellybutton cheese labels.
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