Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Human-Based Gelatin Created by Chinese Researchers

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Researchers at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology have discovered a method for creating large quantities of human-derived gelatin, which in theory, could become a substitute for the thousands of tons of animal-based gelatin used in desserts, marshmallows, candies, and other products.

Gross! Why would anyone ever want to make human-based gelatin? The reason, according to researcher Jinchun Chen and his colleagues, is that animal-based gelatin is usually made from collagen in the bones and skins of cows and pigs, which means that there's a risk, however small, that the gelatin carries infectious diseases such as mad cow disease. Animal-based gelatin can also provoke immune system responses in some people. Hence, human-derived gelatin would be healthier and safer.

But -- isn't that some kind of indirect cannibalism? Asks Clay Dillow on SF Weekly checked out the abstract of Chen's paper to see exactly what "human-derived" gelatin means.

What Chen and his team have done is inject human gelatin genes into a strain of yeast, using genetic engineering techniques. The modified yeast cells then produce the gelatin. So (phew!) it's not human bones and skins being boiled for collagen, as is done with animal-based gelatin, just bits of DNA. That's a bit better, though it still makes us queasy thinking about it.

According to Chen, the human-yeast gelatin is also more stable than animal-based gelatin, which has a high variability from batch to batch, so this method would allow for higher quality control. Their main goal is to use the human-derived gelatin for drug capsules and other medical applications, so it is unlikely that we'll see it in our food any time soon ... we hope.

For the scientifically inclined, you can access Chen's paper, "New Strategy for Expression of Recombinant Hydroxylated Human-Derived Gelatin in Pichia pastoris KM71," here.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

About The Author

Caroline Chen


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"