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This artwork is alive.
Each one is made from fungi and bacteria.
Ew, gross, right?
But this art is being used to change people's minds about microorganisms.
The person credited with pioneering the art is Alexander Fleming.
If that name sounds familiar, it's because he's the scientist who discovered the antibiotic properties of penicillin.
The organization behind these particular artworks is called Petri Dish Picasso, and it's easy to see why.
They wanted to give people more access to the interesting world of microbiology with a hands-on approach.
Kids, especially, get a kick out of painting with these little things called microbes.
Here's how you paint with bacteria.
Today, I'm gonna draw a dandelion, and those are my brushes.
Agar is a jellylike substance made from red seaweeds used to culture bacteria and fungus in labs.
It's also an ingredient in foods like gummy bears and Jell-O.
It's sterilized into a liquid at about 250 degrees Fahrenheit, poured into a petri dish, and left to cool and solidify.
This is the canvas and the life support for the microbiome.
A microbiome is defined as the microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).
In separate containers, the paint, or microbes, must be grown.
A liquid broth of water and nutrients does the trick.
A popular ingredient for making agar art is E. coli.
Each organism has different nutritional needs and can produce different colors.
A single cell of E. coli can grow to over several billion cells overnight.
Using a few different tools, the cultured bacteria cells are taken from their stew and gently painted onto the agar.
And for the flowers, I'm gonna use a different technique with a pipette.
It's almost like painting with invisible ink because the cells need to grow into mature colony clusters for you to see them.
They're put in an incubator at their optimal growing temperature.
E. coli prefers to be grown at about 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
Depending on how fast the microbes replicate, the incubation step can take anywhere from 12 hours to several days.
Then it's time to see if your agar art is in the league of Pablo Picasso, or maybe Jackson Pollock.
Agar art doesn't last forever.
As the cells run out of nutrients, they will begin to die.
Some agar artists try to preserve their work by casting it in resin, but not Petri Dish Picasso.
As they say, all good things must come to an end.
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Germ Art Is Helping Change The Way We Think About Bacteria

1484 Folder Collection
April Lu published on July 8, 2019    April Lu translated    April Lu reviewed
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