Animalcule Choreography

Bacteria and microbes would have been the first living things to move,  and thus in a sense, the first organisms to be able to to dance on planet Earth. I’m attempting some microbiological choreography. In the first instance, can I persuade microbes to move with purpose and in a coordinated manner. The answer seems to be yes. It’s more like a flash mob, rather than an elegant ballet at present,  but in the videos above Euglena gracilis has moved in a deliberate manner to a source of stimulus which  results in a seething mass of mircobial cells and areas distil to the stimulus being far less populated. It’s easy to see how the complex multicellular behaviour that we see in plants might have arisen.

 

Grow Your Own Home: with Gluconoacetobacter xylinus

DSC_0490 DSC_0491 DSC_0492 DSC_0493 DSC_0494

A short time ago C-MOULD the world’s largest collection of microorganisms for use in art and design acquired  two strains of Gluconoacetobacter xylinus, which produce  cellulose nanofibres when grown with sugar. These are microscopic images of the bacteria and clearly show the bacterial cells amongst deposits and fibrils of cellulose.  It’s an intriguingly tough yet flexible living material and by growing the bacteria together with sand I’m hoping to grow my own house.

Pyrocystis: Painting With Biological Light

IMG_3201 IMG_3202 IMG_3203 IMG_3204 IMG_3205 IMG_3206

IMG_3207

 

 

 

Pyrocystis fusiformis is a large marine bioluminescent algae. When it is disturbed,  it produces a flash of stiking blue bioluminescent light.  In the still images and video above, I have poured some of the culture into a shallow Petri dish and then used a stylus to make paint-like strokes in the liquid media. Captured by the camera, the results are fleeting paintings where the individual trajectories of single cells of the algae can be seen. It’s as if the stylus has become a magical wand that sparkles with the raw energy of our seas. The colour and quality of the light reminds me of Cherenkow Radiation.

Pyrocystis: Recording Light

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

Agitation with a stylus

A single Pyrocystis cell, 200x magnification, DIC microscopy

A single Pyrocystis cell, 200x magnification, DIC microscopy

A single Pyrocystis cell, 200x magnification, DIC microscopy

A single Pyrocystis cell, 200x magnification, DIC microscopy

A single Pyrocystis cell, 200x magnification, DIC microscopy

A single Pyrocystis cell, 200x magnification, DIC microscopy

Pyrocystis fusiformis is a large marine bioluminescent algae. Under the microscope at 100 or 200x magnification it is an elegant microbe (see images above). When it is disturbed,  it produces a flash of stiking blue bioluminescent light. In the above video a culture of this microbe is stimulated to continually produce light by a rotating magnetic stirrer. In the still images above, I have poured some of the culture into a shallow Petri dish and then used a stylus to make paint-like strokes in the liquid media. Captured by the camera, the results are fleeting paintings where the individual trajectories of single cells of the algae can be seen. It’s as if the stylus has become a  magical wand that sparkles with a marine magic.

C-MOULD New Acquisitions: Living Carcinogens

Agrobacterium tumifaciens, Gram stain 1000x magnification, Brightfield Microscopy

Agrobacterium tumifaciens, Gram stain 1000x magnification, Brightfield Microscopy

Agrobacterium rhizogenes, Gram stain 1000x magnification, Brightfield Microscopy

Agrobacterium rhizogenes, Gram stain 1000x magnification, Brightfield Microscopy

C-MOULD, the world’s largest collection of microorganisms for use in the arts, with over 50 different kinds of microorganism. We have bacteria and fungi that glow in ethereal shades of green and blue light, bacteria that make gold and electrically conductive nanowires, and bacteria that produce biotextiles. We also possess the largest collection of pigmented bacteria.

The bacteria in the images and videos above have just been acquired by C-MOULD. Agrobacterium tumifaciens (gall-like tumours) and Agrobacterium rhizogenes (hairy root tumours) are sophisticated plant pathogens that upon infection, incorporate a small section of their own DNA into the host plant’s genome which results in the formation of  plant tumours.

C.met at C-MOULD

Cupriavidus metallidurans, Gram Stain, 1000x magnification

Cupriavidus metallidurans, Gram Stain, 1000x magnification

Cupriavidus metallidurans, Gram Stain, 1000x magnification

Cupriavidus metallidurans, Gram Stain, 1000x magnification

At C-MOULD we call the bacterium in these images C.met. (short for Cupriavidus metallidurans). The owner of this rather cumbersome name, has the unique ability amongst living things (I think) to produce gold. We have just begun a project to isolate the Au-Operon (the set of genes responsible for gold synthesis) and in the first instance to  clone this into E.coli so that it too might gain the ability to produce gold. Artists might speculate that someone that consumed this bacterium would produce golden turds. We hope that the project might also form the basis of future BioFolly’s, indulgent living SynBio status symbols, such as the Sheep With The Golden Fleece or The Goose That Lays The Golden Egg.

The Colour of Sound II: Pyrocystis fusiformis, Bowers and Wilkins P5 Headphones and iPad

Pyrocystis fusiformis is a large marine bioluminescent algae. During the night, its cells produce a stiking blue light when disturbed as a defence mechanism to startle predators. Here I’ve “disturbed” them by playing them music through headphones, Dominion/Mother Russia by The Sisters of Mercy to be precise. I’m thrilled to report that they “hear” the music and respond to it by producing light. The videos are best viewed in a dark room. Because I’ve used headphones here, only the Pyrocystis can “hear” the music, and the background noise is that of the fans in the controlled temperature room where the algae are currently living. Tempted to call this process SonoBioluminescence. Maybe be a trip to some natural Pyrocystis marine habitat next to play them, and the sea, music in their natural setting.