Quorum Sensing: Skin Flora Signal System

2022
hybrid installation, synthetic biology


Collaboration with Lucy Ojomoko, molecular biologist
Quorum Sensing: Skin Flora Signal System project develops DIY-approaches for modifying human skin microbiome in order to produce smells which can be easily detected to self-diagnose or prevent diseases. Moreover this project creates a system, connecting three kingdoms in a symbiotic relationship: uniting bacteria, plants and animals (such as humans).
By creating genetically modified skin microbiome bacteria, producing smells of flowers as a response to a trigger as a disease or fever, "Quorum Sensing: Skin Flora Signal System" project suggests to consider skin microbiome as a terminal or an interface. On a bio-semiotic level this signal system may be resurrected and reimagined by programming and reprogramming existing biological relations and structures in the human body into an artificially created nevertheless natural organ, operating between molecular-level processes and something tangible like a smell.

We started to work with E. Coli as a model micro-organism. We used a gene knockout approach to switch off bacteria's own smell and tested smell production using several molecules of smell extracted from flowers (mint, linalool).
Some diseases are asymptomatic, but can be detected on a molecular level. The entity or the organ, created as a prototype within the framework of the project, is able to reveal diseases by decoding these molecular processes and producing smells which can be detected and identified. In terms of medicine this system can be considered as a method of diagnostics and self-diagnostics or even diseases prevention. However we can expand this understanding in terms of bio-semiotics and to see it as a new sensing organ with specific ability to redefine the existing signal system (smells) and to use the familiar sensation (olfactory) to encode and decode the information on a biochemical level.

Credits:
Bio Tehna Galerija Kapelica / Kapelica Gallery RAMPA Lab
Collaborators: Nika Peshekhonova, Kristijan Tkalec, Luka Žagar, Jakob Grčman, Eva Debevec, Nastja Ambrožič, Zvonko Drobnič
Special acknowledgment: Biotechnical Faculty, Infrastructural Centre (IC), Nina Gunde-Cimerman PhD, Cene Gostinčar PhD, Mojca Matul

With support from:
Quorum Sensing: Skin Flora Signal System is a part of the ART4MED project, and co-funded by:
Creative Europe programme of the European Union, and Ministry of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia