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What does cheese made from armpit and nose bacteria smell like?

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We've already established that cheese-making is a pretty disgusting process, what with the traditional process of deriving enzymes from calf bile. But one group of researchers has tried getting the bacteria necessary for the cheese-making process from an even more unusual source: the human body. They've explored the microbial diversity of the human ecosystem—and the relationship between the human body and our food—by seeing what flavors of cheese our bacteria produce.


Biologist Christina Agapakis and scent expert Sissel Tolaas worked on this unusual culinary sciences project as part of Synthetic Aesthetics, a synthetic biology project run by the University of Edinburgh and Stanford University. Agapakis was curious as to whether there might be human origins to some of our modern cheese flavors. So she got to swabbing armpits, hands, feet, and noses, inoculated milk with the swabs, and incubated now bacteria-filled milk. She used identical methods to strain and press the cheeses, getting a variety of flavors as a result.

So what does armpit cheese smell like? It depends on whose armpit it is. Here were the results of Agapakis' taste test:


You can read more about the project on Agapakis' website, including her thesis chapter about the project.

Cheese [Christina Agapakis via Neatorama]

Photo credit: DWaschnig/Shutterstock.