Author Archives: Paul Trafford

Microbe Mouth

The centrepiece of this necklace is a unique tooth grown from an extremophile bio-mineralising bacterium that is capable of producing tooth enamel. It is surrounded by porcelain teeth glazed with the bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay.

Anna Dumitriu, and Dr Melissa Grant and Dr Rachel Sammons from the University of Birmingham
Porcelain, glazes pigmented with sterilised bacteria, a tooth made from hydroxyapatite (tooth enamel) created by Serratia N14 bacteria

Becoming Resistant: MSSA to MRSA

The patches of cotton calico that make up this artwork were placed in Petri dishes and grown with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The bacteria, which appear blue on a special growth medium have been tested against popular natural antimicrobials such as garlic, turmeric and cloves. The experiments were developed in collaboration with members of the public during a participatory workshop. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is very difficult to treat because it has evolved the ability to combat some antibiotic treatments.

Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with Dr John Paul, Dr James Price and Kevin Cole
Cotton calico, sterilised bacteria, antibiotic and antimicrobial substances

Engineered Antibody

“Engineered Antibody” explores the field of synthetic biology and takes the form of a beaded necklace based on an antibody purified from the blood of an HIV-positive patient. Made up of 452 hand-made beads, it both represents and physically contains the actual 21 amino acids of the unnatural engineered antibody in their precise order and folded into the exact protein structure.

An antibody is a protein that is produced by the immune system in order to combat foreign bodies and viruses, which it can bind to. This antibody has been engineered to better block HIV infections through the introduction of an additional amino acid called sulfotyrosine.

The artist draws on the image that all forms of organic life are made of amino acids, which join together like strings of beads to form proteins that fold into three-dimensional structures essential to their function.

The beads are then attached to textiles that have been dyed using Coomassie Brilliant Blue, originally a wool dye and nowadays used as a stain in laboratories to visualize and separate proteins. The form of the embroidered calico is based on the diagram of the antibody structure.

Anna Dumitriu, in collaboration with Xiang Li, the Liu Lab for Synthetic Evolution at University of California Irvine
Polymer clay, crystalized amino acids, Coomassie Blue dye, embroidered cotton calico, and antique crocheted linen

Pneumothorax Machine

This altered Pneumothorax Machine was originally used to collapse the lung of a tuberculosis (TB) patient. The object is transformed through intricate carving and engraving. The carved case represents the texture of the lung tissue as the immune system attempts to ‘wall off’ the ‘foreign’ TB bacteria that it cannot eliminate. The engraving represents the TB bacteria under the microscope.

The therapy was intended to give the lung “a proper rest” in the belief that this would give it a chance to repair itself, and also that it would cut off the oxygen supply to the TB bacteria and kill them. Around one third of pulmonary (lung) TB patients underwent some form of so-called ‘collapse therapy’ between the 1930s and 1950s until antibiotic treatments replaced this unpleasant procedure. The rise of drug resistant tuberculosis has seen new trials of artificial pneumothorax treatments.

Anna Dumitriu
Altered antique medical device with engraving and carving