Microbial art

Posted on Dec 22, 2011 | Creativity| Entertainment |

Not everyone can understand what’s in the picture. This is how a creative microbiologist would celebrate his Christmas in lab. As a general concept we know that microorganisms are very tiny that we cannot see with the help of unaided eyes. We need high power microscopes to see them. That’s ok if you are trying to see individual microbes. But, when they are in huge numbers, they grow and form colonies (a real life nearest anecdote to these colonies could be how you see tents in camping ground).

Different microorganisms synthesize different pigments based on their biosynthetic pathways. Due to these pigments, their colonies (which are visible with naked eyes) are coloured. In this photo, you can see growth of some different types of microorganism on the culture plate. They were plated in specific pattern so that when they will grow they assume a shape of Christmas tree.

Don’t you think this is creative….

Besides the fun part of this picture, there is an interesting and informative history behind such paintings. If you know something about antibiotic, then I am sure you must know about the father of antibiotic therapy: Sir Alexander Fleming.

In his own words, Sir Fleming said: “When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer,” Fleming would later say, “But I suppose that was exactly what I did.”

By 1927, Fleming was investigating the properties of staphylococci. He was already well-known from his earlier work, and had developed a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent August on holiday with his family. Before leaving, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci that had immediately surrounded it had been destroyed, whereas other colonies farther away were normal. Fleming showed the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Price, who reminded him, “That’s how you discovered lysozyme.” Fleming grew the mould in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mould as being from the Penicillium genus, and, after some months of calling it “mould juice” named the substance it released penicillin on 7 March 1929. This is how the discovery of penicillin was made.

(These pictures are actually microbial arts drawn by Sir Alexander Fleming himself )

Coming back to Sir Alexander Fleming microbial painting, his microbial art paintings were technically very difficult to make. He had to find microbes with different pigments and then time his inoculation such that the different species all matured at the same time.

It is not clear why Fleming started painting microbes. He was a self-taught artist and painted what occurred to him.

So his legacy is still on with other creative minds just like in this paining……

Do you love this! Just click the “Love-it” icon located at the end of the photo to make this microbial art a most adorable one….

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