Real Vegan Cheese won a gold medal and best of track trophy in 2014 in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. The team engineering baker's yeast cells to produce milk proteins such as casein which changes structure in cheese formation. Eleven proteins will form the foundation of their cheese. Yeast, genetically engineered yeast to include the genes coding fror these proteins, will be fed carbohydrates and excrete milk. The complete recipe will also include substitutes for animals fat and milk sugar (lactose) are also essential cheese ingredients that will need to come from vegan sources. Real Vegan Cheese production process claims to be more sustainable than the standard cheese-making process and can reduce the carbon footprint due to elimination of methane producing cows.
The same basic principles could be applied to make milk from any other animal casein proteins. For example human breast milk may provide an option to people with allergies to non-human dairy products. The human milk project was put on hold due to concerns about possible autoimmune reactions, by Food and Drug Administration. Real Vegan Cheese plans to make its cheese recipe available for anyone to make it at home.
In 2018 the team secured private funding which led to the production of four cheese proteins, alpha-s1, alpha-s2, beta casein and kappa casein. Three of those four have been successfully purified. The group is working on reconstituting milk and cheesemaking experiments with these milk proteins in combination with other ingredients such as plant-based fat and sugar. Kappa casein has been used to create a mozzarella-like cheese.
Maria I. Chavez
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