Vegans and vegetarians have been in their kitchen laboratories for years attempting (and sometimes succeeding) to find a suitable substitute for gelatin. Now it seems that a group of scientists just might have done the trick – kind of. Conventional gelatin is made from collagen inside animals’ skin and bones — yes, we know we are ruining your childhood memories — and a group of researchers have managed to replace that animal base with a human one. Their research appears in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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Don’t worry – no serial killers involved here. The process the researchers perfected actually involves taking human gelatin genes and inserting them into a strain of yeast. With their technology they were able to grow gelatin with controllable features. Jinchun Chen, the leader of the study, and his colleagues believe they can scale this process up to produce large amounts of human-based gelatin. So why, you ask, are the researchers pursuing this possible cannibalistic measure? For medical reasons, of course  (though our first thought was jello shots).

It turns out that gelatin has many uses in the world of medicine — it is widely used in medicinal capsules, for one. Many people’s immune systems don’t respond fondly to the animal-derived stuff. Chen and his team, working out of Beijing, were attempting to perfect a gelatin that the human immune system would accept without question, so making it out of human tissue makes sense. Though human-based gelatin on a supermarket shelf is pretty unappetizing, human-based gelatin in the world of medicine seems genius. Let’s hope Chen and his crew are only reaching to conquer the pharmaceutical industry and not the food industry as well.

Via Science Daily