Medicinal bacon? It’s not bullshit.
The same lab that genetically modified pigs to grow organs for human transplantation has also become an unexpected supplier of pork products, especially for people with a mysterious tick-borne red meat allergy. .
With Epi-pens at their fingertips, several patients have already tested the free, exclusive lab bacon, thanks to an exclusive partnership with scientists who hope to study the mechanisms behind the disease, according to a new report in The Atlantic. .
The disease was first described in 2008, resulting from a bite from a Lone Star tick. Although doctors don’t yet know exactly how this reaction is triggered, it causes the immune system to attack a sugar molecule in meat called alpha-gal – hence what is also known as alpha-gal syndrome. gal.
It is now estimated that tens of thousands of Americans probably have some form of intolerance to alpha-gal – and therefore to red meat. At lower concentrations, the molecule can also be found in dairy products and a number of other products potentially derived from non-primate mammals, including some beauty products and drug therapies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People who never had problems with red meat before the infection found themselves sick and hospitalized after a single bite of hamburger, with symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to full-blown anaphylaxis.
This is where Revivicor comes in, because alpha-gal happens to be the same thing that is known to cause the human body to reject pig organs for transplantation. In January, the company successfully developed pigs born without alpha-gal – called GalSafe pigs – so that their organs could be harvested instead amid a widespread shortage of viable human donors.
A stroke of genius led them to wonder if their alpha-gal-free pigs could also be enjoyed commercially.
In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration granted the Maryland lab permission to use its pigs on people in hopes of developing medical products without the trigger ingredient. Although commercial food avenues were not the focus of their study, they told The Associated Press at the time, they were then aware of the potential of their pigs for people with alpha-gal syndrome – and thus became only the second genetically modified animal to be approved by the FDA.
Now the company is exploring a mail-order business to send people affected by the syndrome refrigerated packages of alpha-gal-free bacon, ham, ground pork, chops and pork shoulder.
One of Revivicor’s test subjects happens to be someone with a lot of experience with livestock: Steve Troxler, the North Carolina commissioner of agriculture. Eating meat was considered a prerequisite for the role.
“Part of my job as agriculture commissioner is to be able to eat more barbecue than any human being on the face of the earth,” he told The Atlantic.
The well-connected state official is reportedly helping the lab gain expedited FDA approval in hopes of seeing GalSafe cuts on store shelves — which could happen soon enough, as researchers at the University of North Carolina are launching a study to confirm the safety of specialty pork for human consumption.
Those who have tried GalSafe meats before have said they taste just like regular pork.
“The only downside is that it reminded me of how delicious pork is,” said Sharon Forsyth, a blogger who runs the Alpha-gal Information site.