This is an entry for the American Society of Microbiology Agar Art competition, and yes, it’s created using poop! Or more correctly, bacteria from poop.
You can see more of the agar art at:
Update: We’ve now got a full gallery of our art at http://modmedmicro.nsms.ox.ac.uk/art-from-the-gut/
Photography is by Chris Wood, of Oxford Medical Illustration, whose awesome work is all over this blog. The images are photographed over a lightbox, to bring out the colors and transparency of the agar.
There’s a lot more behind it than I could fit into 200 words! So I so here’s the longer description.
What’s the science behind this?
We often talk about bacteria as harmful things. Images in the media, advertising, even Doctors and Scientists, portray a healthy, desirable world as one free of bacteria- sterile, washed and scrubbed clean. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this isn’t true. Recent advances in scientific research have enabled us to study bacteria in new ways, helping us realise that we wouldn’t be able to survive in this world without bacteria – we live together, and often help one another. One of the most important places this happens is in our partnership with the bacteria in the gut. We provide them with food and habitat. They, in return, help protect us from harmful bacteria, help regulate the immune system so it fights infections but doesn’t get over-reactive (which may stimulate auto-immune diseases), and also affect our metabolism, or hormones, even possibly our mood…
Some people have compared the bacteria that live in our gut to a ‘garden’ – a healthy gut is one that is populated with many different types of bacteria, living together – in this setting, bacteria are desirable and beautiful. Some bacteria are almost always beneficial, some are harmless, and some can be harmful. They all interact with one another, forming an ecosystem- they compete for nutrients, interact and communicate with one another. But much like a garden, some types of bacteria can get out of control and cause damage if the careful balance between human and bacterial community is disrupted. For instance, previously harmless gut bacteria can sometimes escape the gut and enter our bloodstream if our immune system isn’t working well, or if our gut wall is damaged. Perhaps, rather than partnership, we should consider the relationship between our bacteria as a mutually-beneficial truce, occasionally broken by both sides when circumstances change.
You can see the techniques used here:
Thanks to That’s Oxford TV!
What’s going on in the images?