Need This New Invention? Belly Button Cheese

Trust the Irish to try things that would make the rest of the world go "yuuuuck" Perhaps it is an innate curiosity and tolerance for the unusual, but The Science Gallery in Dublin has an exhibit of cheese on display. This isn't your runCheese Made With Human Bacteria (You Tube Image)Cheese Made With Human Bacteria (You Tube Image) of the mill cheddar, Swiss, and Gouda show. No, this cheese has been made with, um, human bacteria collected from a variety of areas on the human body. In short -- it is human-flavored cheese.

So what is all of the stink about? The project is the work of chemist Christina Agapakis and odor expert Sissel Tolaas. The idea behind the project, called Selfmade, is to demonstrate that living organisms that live on our bodies also exist in food -- and the other way around as well. It is also meant to show how we can harness and manipulate microbiology to create synthetic microbes. Eleven cheeses were created using bacteria collected from artists, scientists, and cheese makers who were sent clean cotton swabs. 

Making Cheese With Human Bacteria (You Tube Image)Making Cheese With Human Bacteria (You Tube Image)Each of us has our own unique, diverse set of bacteria growing on us. Because of this, the resulting off-white cheeses smelled and tasted remarkably like the body odors of the people who had donated their bacteria. Samples were taken from belly buttons, armpits, noses, feet, and other areas. The bacterial samples were swabbed onto the rinds of various cheeses and allowed to grow. Each resulted in a unique cheese and all of the cheeses produced were of the stinky variety.

Each cheese represents a separate individual and creates a sort of microbial "portrait" depicting the bacterial landscape of that person. 

Before you become too nauseous at the thought of these cheeses and their aromatic qualities, they are not for consumption. This was done purely for science and to encourage new conversations about the often symbiotic relationship between the body and bacteria. Part of this discussion would include the similarity between the bacteria we work so hard to wash off and the bacteria in foods like cheese, which we eat all of the time.

No wonder that many people have equated the smell of cheese with the stench of used sweat socks -- they have a lot of bacteria in common.

Sources: The Atlantic, De Zeen