Saw

A self-organising saw?

Kitchen Kombucha

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Here’s a nice little kitchen microbiology experiment. Kombucha is a natural and symbiotic fermentation that involves yeast and nanocellulose producing Gluconoacetobacter. It can be eaten and is safe to culture at home, but produces bacterial cellulose, natural biomaterial with unique properties that make it  suitable for tissue engineering applications. For example,  it might be used to prepare nerve conduits to repair peripheral nerve injuries or as scaffold to grow new tissue.  Here is some home grown Kombucha, stained with the Ehrlich stain (a simple of the shelf DIY staining method that I developed), and viewed down a microscope. The larger cells are the yeasts, and the much smaller rod shape ones, the cellulose producing Gluconoacetobacter.

 

 

 

Filthy Lucre: money as a fomite

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Bacteria can utilize many different things in order to promote their transmission. Insects, water, food, coughs and sneezes, and sexual contact are just a few examples. Living organisms that transmit bacteria are called vectors, and lifeless objects are called fomites in this respect. In 2013 and 2014, as part of a series of experiments that took place in BMS1035 Practical and Biomedical Bacteriology, University of Surrey students revealed the vast numbers of bacteria that we all carry on our mobile phone. Today we release the results of a new and related study, in which our students examined the bacteria carried on money. The students brought in coins and notes and imprinted them onto bacteriological growth media, which was then incubated to determine how many bacteria grew and to reveal the spatial location of the bacteria on the currency. I should note that after careful washing and drying that the money was returned to the students.

As in our previous studies with mobile phones, we found that money, be it coins or notes, harbours very large numbers of bacteria. The difference here though is that the bacteria on mobile phones are mostly personal ones, because it’s generally only the owner that interacts with the device. Money, on the other hand,  is something that we all share so it passes through many many different hands, washed and unwashed. It also gets kept in warm and moist pockets, which offer perfect conditions for bacterial growth and survival. Imagine your wallets or money kept close to your person  as Pocket Petri Dishes! Consequently, the populations of bacteria on currency are much larger and more diverse,  and money is far more likely to carry disease causing bacteria. The most common types found  are skin bacteria but money has also been shown harbour MRSA and food poisoning bacteria in other related studies.

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Note showing growth of the soil bacterium Bacillus mycoides

Note showing growth of the soil bacterium Bacillus mycoides

Note showing growth of the soil bacterium Bacillus mycoides

Note showing growth of the soil bacterium Bacillus mycoides

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Deconstructing Resistance: from art to science

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This is a research project that arose from an arts project, and is investigating a novel  antibiotic which is active against Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The white growth is MRSA and in the middle the antibiotic and zone of inhibition generated by its activity against MRSA. Very early days but an example of how art can inform science.

Baker’s Yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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The ultimate utility microbe. Bread-making, wine making and brewing.

Viewed here with DIC Microscopy at various magnifications

A New Typeface: BioSerif/BioGlyphs

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Here microorganisms either in their natural environments, or in cluture, have been invited to interact with paper containing printed text in the form of  words, prose or poems. In the images above, and at 100-times magnification,  their interactions become apparent, as the infusoria have inflitrated the paper and text. In doing so, these minute life forms add their own inimitable character to the writings, decorating the letters with beautful but usually invisible designs. I also like the way that the letters impose a sense of size upon the microorganisms.

For My Valentine: the cellular rose

A red rose at 100x magnification.

A red rose at 100x magnification.

A red rose for my valentine, first observed at 100-times magnification.The pigment that gives the rose its colour obscures the cellular detail and biological reality of the bloom.

To reveal the cells that made up the flower, I added an agent that  caused the pigment to leach out of the cells so that their structure would be revealed.

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The images above, at 100x magnification of a red rose petal, being cleared of their red pigment and gradually revealing the flowers cellular pigment.

 

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The image above is the red pigment from the rose petals, after it has drained out the cells.

Finally, to make my Valentine’s Rose truly unique, I Bio-Hacked it with an agent that I invented called Alchyme. This fluid slowly infiltrates the tissue, and cells, of the rose petal, and subtly alters the chemistry of the natural red pigment that is present, converting  it into different coloured forms (yellow, green, blue, purple), and creating the unique Rainbow Rose.