Bacterial microbiome mapping, bioartistic experiment

  • François-Joseph Lapointe, Université de Montréal
  • Digital Images
  • Online

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About this work


"1000 Handshakes" is a performance piece during which the artist shakes hands with as many people as possible, gradually changing the invisible microbial community in the palm of his hand. Periodically, assistants take a swab from the skin, and the samples are analyzed in the lab to reveal how our contact with others shapes the microbes between us. This ongoing project has been performed in different cities around the world (including Copenhagen, Montreal, San Francisco, Perth, Berlin and Baltimore) as a way to map our collective microbiome using scientific data. Production of the 'microbiome selfies' involved many different steps. Following the collection of the microbiome samples, bacterial DNA was extracted, amplified and sequenced to create the bioinformatic data shown in this series. The nodes of the networks represent bacterial DNA sequences, and two nodes are connected by an edge (line) when the bacterial DNA sequences have more than 95% similarity. The different colours correspond to distinct samples collected at every 50th handshake, from 0 to 1001. This image corresponds to the 6th image in this 21-part series, showing the extensive microbiome resulting from 250 handshakes.

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