Researchers Find Way to Make Tons of Human-Based Gelatin for Use in Gel Caps, Marshmallows and Candy

Posted on July 15, 2011

Here is a story that is likely to lead to many Soylent Green comments. Chinese scientists have developed a new approach for producing large quantities of human-derived gelatin. The gelatin could be used as a substitute for the 300,000 tons of animal-based gelatin produced annually for gelatin-type desserts, marshmallows, candy and other products.

The research appears in ACS's Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Jinchun Chen and his colleagues say animal-based gelatin, which is made most often from the bones and skin of cows and pigs, may carry a risk of infectious diseases such as Mad Cow. They also believe it could provoke immune system responses in some people. Apparently, eating jello is not as safe as it seems. Animal-based gelatin also has other draw-backs, such as variability from batch to batch.

To get around these difficulties, the scientists developed and demonstrated a method where human gelatin genes are inserted into a strain of yeast, which can produce gelatin with controllable features. The researchers are still testing the human-yeast gelatin to see how it compares to other gelatins. They say the human-yeast gelatin production method could be scaled up to create large amounts.

Bon Appetit is already asking whether people will be able to stomach eating human-based gelatin. Pharmaceutical items, such as gel-tabs, are most likely to be the first product made from the gelatin.

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