Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 1 p.m.
Admittedly, I can't even suck on a ringlet of my own hair without convincing myself I'm developing a case of trichophagia.
So when word came this week that scientists working at a university in Beijing were developing a method to create "large quantities of human-derived gelatin" for eh, human consumption, I had to reel in the ol' imagination away from the Soylent Green-like picture of boiled-down bones, skin, and tissue offered up by the sugary spoonful. As it turns out, it's not half as gross as it sounds on the surface.
According to an article in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry
, scientist Jinchun Chen and colleagues at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology were aiming to find a substitute for the some of the "300,000 tons of animal-based gelatin produced annually for gelatin-type desserts, marshmallows, candy and innumerable other products" when they developed a way to use human genes inserted into a strain of yeast to produce gelatin. Once the bits of DNA are inserted, the yeast reproduces massive amounts of gelatin.
In a score for all animals (humans included), the genes could be obtained from something as small as a mouth swab, and ultimately nobody has to die for that Jell-O shot in your hand. But will consumers go for it? And will the concept be easier to digest than say, the Turd Burger
According to Chen, the human-based gelatin would be a healthier and safer alternative to the animal-based gelatin that researchers say carries the (very small) risk of infectious diseases like mad cow disease.
Chen says it will allow for better quality control since the human-based gelatin would be more stable than the animal-based gelatin, which varies from batch to batch. The human-based gelatin is still in development and will most likely be used for items like drug capsules at first.
You can read Chen's paper in its entirety here