Who Cut the Cheese?

December 11, 2013

Would you eat cheese made out of bacteria from the human body?

Human CheeseScent researcher Christina Agapakis, and Sissel Tolaas, a synthetic biologist, learned that microscopic ecosystems inside the human body are often very similar to the bacteria that makes cheese possible. So, with the cooperation of Stanford University and the University of Edinburgh, they followed this information to its natural conclusion: a product called Selfmade, which is “human cheese.”

Agapakis and Tolass first asked eight people, including noted food writer Michael Pollan, to use swabs to collect bacteria samples from various body parts, including their armpits, noses, and toes. (Pollan used his belly button.) Then, using traditional cheesemaking methods, with the human-based bacteria as the active ingredient, the researchers whipped up eleven different types of cheese.

The cheeses they created don’t look—or smell—much different than what you’d find at your supermarket. The cheese made out of Pollan’s belly button goo, for example, doesn’t taste like Pollan’s belly button goo—it tastes like, well, cheese. These icky invention(s) were later put on display at Grow Your Own…Life After Nature, an exhibition at the Science Gallery in Dublin, Ireland.

As far as we know, Agapakis and Tolaas haven’t handed out any free samples. Nevertheless, Uncle John would rather put good old fashioned cheddar in his grilled cheese sandwiches, thank you very much.