The Green Man is an enigma spanning thousands of years of history, and a myth with mysterious origins. The influence of this vegetative deity permeates various faiths and cultures, and has survived countless cultural transformations, enduring, in more or less the same physical form, to this day. One of the most common interpretations of the Green Man is that of a pagan nature spirit, a symbol of humankind’s reliance on, and union with, nature, as a symbol of the underlying life-force, and of the renewed cycle of growth each Spring. This new project seeks to extend this powerful and ingrained mythology, by using emerging technologies, to generate a novel human/plant transspecies.
Green Man then is an ongoing art-science research project exploring the development of a novel plant/human hybrid, by replicating, and perhaps even improving, ancient evolutionary processes that led to the evolution of complex life on Earth. Endosymbiosis, is a hypothesised process by which bacterial cells, and their uptake by primitive cells, gave rise to the first complex eukaryotic cells. Two endosymbiotic events are well supported by research. Mitochondria are one of the many different types of organelles in nearly all eukaryotes, and in particular these generate energy. These organelles are thought to have originated from Proteobacteria (Gram-negative bacteria) through endosymbiosis. Similarly, chloroplasts, which allow plants to photosynthesise, most likely originated from Cyanobacteria/Cyanophytes via the same process.
In the context of the above then, The Green Man is a provocative project that seeks to bring about a third and intentional/directed endosymbiosis and its overall aim is to introduce Cyanophytes (photosynthetic cyanobacteria), which will act as proto-chloroplasts, into my human cells and eventually into my body, so that humanity might be reborn, as at the very least, a partially photosynthetic life form.
Phase 1. 0. Cyanophyte Culture
In this first stage of the project, a variety of different Cyanophytes were cultured and characterised for suitability to function as protochloroplasts. One particular strain, SynX14 was selected as the most promising candidate. See the images below:
For various reasons, such a cell-shape, inability to to taken up into the cytoplasm of my human cells, the following Cyanophytes were rejected. Nevertheless, they are all still profoundly beautiful and fascinating life forms.
Phase 2.0. Cyanophyte Transfection
Having selected a suitable photosynthetic cyanotype, the next step of this project was to empower this bacterium with the ability to invade my human cells so that it could gain access to the cytoplasm of my cells and thus, to begin its evolution into a fully functioning chloroplast. Bacteria of the Shigella species and enteroinvasive strains of Escherichia coli cause disease by invasion of the colonic epithelium, and this invasive phenotype is mediated by genes carried on 180- to 240-kb plasmids (pINV). Upon contact with host cells, the bacteria inject, via a molecular syringe, several invasion plasmid antigens (IpaB, IpaC, and IpaA) into the cytoplasm. These bacterial effector proteins then reprogramme, the biochemistry of the cell and induce cytoskeletal rearrangements, and membrane changes, that lead to internalization of bacteria into the host cell. Consequently, to generate an invasive form of SynX14 the pINV plasmid was isolated from Shigella, and introduced into the Cyanophyte by electroporation.
In the images and videos below pINV.SynX14 is co-cultured with my own human cells in order to induce invasion of the proto-chloroplast.
In the videos below, invasion of my own human cells with pINV.SynX14. 1000-times magnification, Differential Interference Microscopy. The large structures, with distinct intracellular nuclei are me, and the smaller rod-shaped forms are the invasive Cyanophyte pINV.SynX14.
After some very anxious consideration, I finally decided to go ahead with the next phase of this project, xerotransplantation, that is the introduction my cells which contained the invasive chlorophytes into my own body. I drew up approximately 50 micro litres of the pINV.SynX14 hybrid cell culture into a sterile 100 micro litre Hamilton 1710 RN-SYR-NDL syringe.
After fitting a drawn-out capillary tube needle into the compression fitting of the Hamilton syringe, I carefully injected 5 micro litres of the hybrid cells into the tissue on the top of my hand. Over the next few days, I will monitor this newly photosynthetic part of me to determine whether the new cell type injected into the lesion will be accepted by my immune system or rejected.
Phase 3.0. An unexpected loss of control
My Green Man project has taken a couple of unexpected turns recently. In one potentially dangerous development, the modified Cyanophytes that I developed are far more invasive than I originally planned and consequently, they are rapidly spreading from cell to human cell on my own hand. I now have an infection that is spreading from the initial inoculum, My Green Man project has taken an unexpected and potentially dangerous turn. The modified Cyanophytes are far more invasive than I originally planned and consequently, are spreading from cell to human cell on my own hand, so that I now have an infection that is spreading, and rather bizarrely, is slowly turning me green and also photosynthetic. As the Cyanophytes replicate, and spread intercellularly, the initial lesion has transformed into a green granuloma that has formed as a consequence of the cells of my immune system attacking the invading bacteria and generating localised inflammation. I suspect that if I left the photosynthetic infection untreated, that I would turn completely green and photosynthetic, but for now, I think that the time has now come to end the experiment before this happens so I shall now be applying antibiotics to the infection to destroy the invading Cyanophytes and to hope fully restore my own physiology.