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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.

This artwork is alive.

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Germ Art Is Helping Change The Way We Think About Bacteria

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    April Lu posted on 2019/07/07
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