Progress on Collaborations

It is time for me to take my practice to a professional scientist. After unsuccessfully attempting to get into contact with a scientist who is studying bacteria in the brain, my tutor managed to arrange a meeting for me with a microbiologist who has previously worked with a fashion student to grow a kombucha SCOBY to use in clothing.

At the meeting, I learned some practical tips for growing and drying SCOBY material (i.e. – grow in large plastic packing box, dry on photo paper), as well as some ideas, like testing the SCOBY for antimicrobial properties. The antimicrobial property idea came up because I had been doing some digging into what other artists and DIY-biologists have made out of kombucha SCOBYs, and I had come across a SCOBY bandage. This intrigued me, as I had thought of this idea before but had hesitated to pursue it as I assumed that because the material itself is made up partly of bacteria, it would not be suitable for wound-dressing. Apparently, though, the pH of the culture inhibits the growth of harmful organisms. If this is true, I think developing a brand of biodegradable band-aids would be an interesting route down which to take my project. According to the professor, we could easily take samples of my own kombucha and an accompanying SCOBY and work out whether or not it can protect against certain kinds of bacteria. Even if this turns out to be a dead-end, I am curious to see how it goes.

We also discussed possibly impregnating the material with iodine (which apparently is often used in wound dressings), as well as looking at it under the scanning electron microscope to get a better image of its microscopic structure.

We will be meeting up again soon, and I am excited to see where this new collaboration leads me.

Meanwhile, I have started growing some more petri dish cultures. I did this for both aesthetic and scientific reasons. Aesthetically, I wanted to experiment with more colors. Scientifically, I had a few questions: would turmeric dye produce different microbes by itself than it would with black pepper? Black pepper (or more specifically, the compound piperine) is supposedly helpful in allowing turmeric compounds to remain in the body. What about cinnamon? Or coco powder? I ended up crafting ten additional plates (all with cheek swabs), and I look forward to seeing them grow.

My latest petri dishes
The dyes I used: Cinnamon, turmeric, chili, red and green powder food coloring, and freshly crushed black pepper

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