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Toe Jam Cheese: Scientists Collect Bacteria from Human Bodies for Artsy Project

By Minyvonne Burke m.burke@hngn.com | Nov 25, 2013 02:17 PM EST

Cheese
Scientists use bacteria from human bodies to create cheese for am exhibit. (Photo : Grow Your Own)

Considered part art and part science, a new exhibit at the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin has left some people intrigued and some a little grossed out. American scientist Christina Agapakis and scent specialist Sissel Tolaas gathered sample microbes from human mouths, toes, belly buttons and tears to create 11 different cheeses for Grow Your Own - Selfmade exhibition.

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The two used swabs to collect samples from artist Olafur Elisasson, curator Hans Ulrich Orbrist and Chef Michael Pollan, Dezeen magazine reports. Agapakis and Tolaas grew the bacteria in separate petri dishes and added the samples to milk in order to make the cheese.

"People have a mixture of repulsion and attraction to cheese, and this gives us a chance to have a really interesting conversation about bacteria and odors, and why they might gross people out," Agapakis said adding that she wanted people to analyze how they interact with bacteria in their daily lives.

The experiment also found that even though each cheese carried unique bacterial odor similar to the human donor most people wouldn't be able to tell by sniffing the cheese.

"Each one smells different, but I don't think the smells mimic the odor of the person," she said. "We hope that the cheese can inspire new conversations about our relationship to the body and to our bacteria," Agapakis told the magazine adding that "nobody will eat these cheeses."

According to Dezeen the point of the project "aims to demonstrate how living organisms that exist in the body also exist in food, and vice versa."

By using cheese, Agapakis and Tolaas hope to bring attention to the bacterial connection in the human body and certain foods people consume and to help people overcome the fear of micro-organisms and bacteria in our daily lives. 

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