Cytoplasmic Streaming in the Slime Mould Physarum polycephalum

This is the  same slime mould that is feeding on bacteria and oats in the previous post but here it is observed at 100x magnification with a DIC Microscope

Colour (Prey) Preference in the Slime Mould Physarum polycephalum

Here I have given the the slime mould Physarum polycephalum a choice of five different naturally pigmented bacterial pastes to eat.

Here are the results

Time 0: inoculation

Time 0: inoculation

Time 0: inoculation. the yellow central organism is the slime mould.

Time 12 hours:  At this stage, the slime mould has actively avoided yellow and blue, and ignored red and white as sources of food. If you look carefully, you can see plale slime trails, that are no longer occupied by the slime mould. These are areas of the agar that it investigated but which it found inimical or no source of food.Can yellow and blue be used as a deterent?

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Time 20 hours: The slime mould has identified orange as a food source and is beginning to engulf and consume it.  If you look carefully, you can see plale slime trails, that are no longer occupied by the slime mould. These are areas of the agar that it investigated but which it found inimical or no source of food. Can organge  be used as an attractant?

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Time 36 hours:   I felt a little sorry for the slime mould on its meagre diet of bacteria so fed it some oats. It’s very clear as to which food source it prefers at the momment

 

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Autogenic Self Portraits: the microbiomial paintings

Traditionally, what we consider to be “self” is usually restricted to the collection of 40 trillion or so eukaryote cells that derive directly from the 22,000 genes of our own human genome. However, the “omic” technologies of the 21st century are radically redefining the view that we have of ourselves, so that “self” can now be seen to extend beyond the traditional precinct of our visible form, and to include our resident bacterial community. In fact, our bacterial aspect (the microbiome), containing 100 trillion normally invisible cells, and 2 million microbial genes, dwarfs our eukaryotic genetics and physiology. Recent studies are now beginning to reveal the huge impact of the microbiome on our health and even its ability to modulate our behaviour.

This new project stems from my thought that for every artist, either living today, or dead, that the body’s microbiome, its invisible hundreds of trillions of bacterial cells, would have made at least some contribution to the artist’s work. The inspiration and process, is from joint project that I had with watercolour artist Sarah Roberts to study the interaction of bacteria with traditional watercolours. When we mixed bacteria and watercolours together, we were astounded to discover that the bacteria picked up the pigments, and then moved the watercolours around, in the same way that an artist might paint. The same process is used here, but the bacteria are from my own microbiome, and thus the paintings are unique self-portraits, being direct manifestation of the power, activity and complexity of my other bacterial self.

The Slime Mould Readings

Now all in one place, a collection of the various books that I have fed to the slime mould Physarum polycephalum over the years. There are books here by Adam Roberts, Neal Stephenson and Phil Smith. The slime mould possesses a primitive intelligence, and I wonder whether it detects changes in the nature of the pages beneath it, in terms of the plan paper and inked text, and if so what it makes of this.

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The book was Splinter by Adam Roberts. As I'm apt to do, I fed it to the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, which crawled above it, and then like a microbial Rapunzel, let down these wonderful yellow tendrils.

The book was Splinter by Adam Roberts. As I’m apt to do, I fed it to the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, which crawled above it, and then like a microbial Rapunzel, let down these wonderful yellow tendrils.

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The BacterioEncephalon

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This was a playful attempt to build a computer based upon an on and off switch controlled by bacterial communication. The bacteria track along the threads (wires) and interact with each other to generate a visual output. The vertical threads contain a colourless genetically modified bacterium (the indicator) that is in effect a mute, but which will turn purple when other bacteria “talk” it. The horizontal threads contain a bacterium that is also colourless but can “talk” to the mute bacterium (the transmitter). The bacteria move up and down the threads and where they interact,  and close to the nodes,  the indicator bacterium produces a purple pigment as it receives signals from the transmitter.  The “computer” as produced an output but what is its meaning?

Windows on the Microbiome

Traditionally what we consider to be “self” is usually restricted to the collection of 10 trillion or so eukaryote cells that derive directly from our own human genomes. However, the “omic” technologies of the 21st century are radically redefining this view, so that “self” can now be seen to extend beyond the traditional precinct of our visible form, and to include our resident bacterial community. In fact, these normally invisible cells outnumber what we consider to be our own cells, by a factor of ten and contain at least ten times more DNA than our own genome. Recent studies have suggested that our personal bacterial flora, that is our  microbiome, can influence our predisposition to gain or loose body weight, and even to alter our moods and ability to learn. This new work explores the vastness of the human microbiome. Please follow the illustrated story below.

 

The visitor is at first confronted with a beautiful installation of brightly coloured glass, either in the form of stained glass, or cloured glass into which intricate etchings have been made into the colours (below)

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The same glass, observed under 20-400x magnification reveals vast and beautiful landscapes, comprised many thousands of microscopic bacterial cells. These are in fact from the body’s microbiome (below).

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Finally, the glass is observed at 1000x magnification and the individual bacterial cells that make up the human microbiome can now be seen (below). The final revelation is that this work is made from shit, which has been carefully prepared and stained with specific dyes to reveal the vast numbers of bacteria that are present in it. The work transforms something that is treated with revulsion and disgust, into a profound, and perhaps disturbing, representation of the human microbiome, and its vast complexity.

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BacterioFabrication: a grown book

The bacterium Gluconoacetobacter xylinus, naturally produces films of bacterial cellulose, identical in structure to the plant based material. C-MOULD’S GXCELL, is a hyper-cellulose producing strain of this bacterium which rapidly forms thick mats of this versatile and natural polysaccharide. Cellulose is also the major constituent of paper but here it is mainly obtained from wood pulp. The environmental impact of paper production is significant, it having a number of adverse effects on the environment including deforestation, and air, water and land pollution. Scientists at C-MOULD, have developed a sustainable and less environmentally damaging form of paper that is derived from GXCELL and have used this process to grow a small book entirely from bacteria. Not only is the fabric of the book produced by bacteria, but the book is printed and annotated with BioChromes, unique and living pigments, again produced by bacteria. To our knowledge this is the first book to be grown and produced using just bacteria. The story of how the book was made, in just a week, is  illustrated below. Next step cloning the cellulose operon from Gluconoacetobacter into Cyanobacteria so that we can dispense with the need to add glucose and  thus be able grow paper from  just sunlight.

GXCELL on an agar plate before sheet inoculation.

GXCELL on an agar plate before sheet inoculation.

A  thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL.

A thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL.

A  thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL.

A thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL.

A  thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL.

A thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL.

The finished bacterial paper

The finished bacterial paper

The partially dried  bacterial paper

The partially dried bacterial paper

The blue BioChrome ink being grown

The blue BioChrome ink being grown

On the left a thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL. On the right a thin and fragile film produced by a normal strain of Gluconoacetobacter xylinus

On the left a thick sheet of cellulose produced by GXCELL. On the right a thin and fragile film produced by a normal strain of Gluconoacetobacter xylinus

A thin and fragile cellulose film produced by a normal strain of Gluconoacetobacter xylinus

A thin and fragile cellulose film produced by a normal strain of Gluconoacetobacter xylinus

The finished bacterial paper

The finished bacterial paper

The finished bacterial paper

The finished bacterial paper

Cutting the nanocellulose sheets

Cutting the nanocellulose sheets

The blue BioChrome Ink

The blue BioChrome Ink

Surface detail of a page

Surface detail of a page

BioChrome colours

BioChrome colours

Application of the BioChrome ink

Application of the BioChrome ink

Surface detail of a page

Surface detail of a page

Surface detail of a page

Surface detail of a page

Surface detail of two pages

Surface detail of two pages

Printed text and other available BioChrome colours

Printed text and other available BioChrome colours

Printed text and other available BioChrome colours

Printed text and other available BioChrome colours

Other available BioChrome colours

Other available BioChrome colours

Printed text

Printed text

Printed text and other available BioChrome colours

Printed text and other available BioChrome colours

Turning a page on the finished book

Turning a page on the finished book

Turning a page on the finished book

Turning a page on the finished book

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Turning a page on the finished book

Turning a page on the finished book

Turning a page on the finished book

Turning a page on the finished book