The great exhibition flies have finally hatched!

The Maggot Cohabitation piece as mentioned previously on this blog has completed it’s cycle. Those visitors to the RCA’s ‘Great Exhibition’ this summer would have seen the piece in its larvae stage. Now the maggots, which were replaced every day, have started to hatch into flies. See them in action on my website in this breif video>>>>

As central to the concept of the piece, the flies are now released which completes the cohabitation cycle with them. Come back soon for more updates as more maggots make their metamorphosis.


Maggot Cohabitation

June 19, 2007


Recently parliament debated the widespread roll-out of the use of maggots in contemporary hospitals and the National Heatlth Service (NHS). The case for support is amazingly persuasive:

Maggot therapy only takes five days to treat a wound compared with 89 days for traditional methods. The larvae disinfect wounds by killing bacteria, even superbugs like MRSA as they feed on necrotic tissue. They stimulate the regeneration of living tissue and are more precise than human surgeons.

Their use will save the NHS over £30 million.

Yet most patients opt out of this treatment for fear of another organism feeding from their body. The response to maggots is one of recoil and repulsion. What is the origin of this reaction? How will the NHS manage and overcome this problem?
The Race asks us to invest in the symbiotic relationship pre and post treatments. You are encouraged to follow the life cycle of the maggots from larvae to their release as flies, taking your genetic material with them.
Zoobiotic Ltd introduction to maggot therapy

Commensal Bacteria

June 18, 2007

fingernails2.jpgCommensal Bacteria

New manipulations to the human body and changes in bahaviour are designed to develop commensal relationships with bacteria and other microbes, as we have co-evolved with, to enrich the gut microbiota.

Here fingernail growth is engineered to increase the surface area where bacteria can thrive. With our changing relationship with bacteria, the habit of biting nails is encouraged as a means of consumption. Teamed with very specific micro-environments this is a desirable way of consuming dirt and particularly the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, to boost health and well-being.

s the Royal College of Art is now underway, over the next few days I will be posting some of the thoughts behind the projects with links to collaborators and sources which I have collected in the works development.

The first piece is called Pet Dander:


Domestic animals kept in the home may help boost human immune systems by exposing the owner to a wealth of pet dander, which is the dead skin cells, hair and parasites the animal harbours.

However with selective breeding practice and genetic engineering on the horizon we have created a new league of pets like the labradoodle and similar crosses and Allerca cats. These marketed as hypoallergenic lifestyle pets. Due to the unique breeding of these animals they are designed not to expose humans to allergenics like pet hair. Through this practice we have unwitingly stripped our cohabitation with these animals from the health benefits they once had.

With our revised understanding of health, hybrid animals are designed specifically to harbour pet dander, dead skin, hair and pet parasites in order to desensitize and strengthen their human co-habitants immune systems. In this pursuit a mixture of organisms are engineered to create an animal which has a dense coat, perfect for harbouring parasites, sheading its hair and has a natural behaviour to forage and graze, collecting dirt and bacteria as it does. Importantly, the animal just asks to be embraced and petted.


Maggot calculator for wound size

The development of the biophilia clinic follows a gradual awareness, acceptance and resurgence of biotherapies into contemporary medicine. For instance, maggot debridement therapy is finding its way back into hospital surgeries, even becoming available on the NHS as a cheaper and more effective wound treatment method. Whatsmore the maggot therapy helps minimise the risk of MRSA- super-bug infection due to the maggots disinfection production. They also eat only the decaying flesh, whereas a human surgeon will cut away healthy tissue as well and, if used widely, would save the NHS £30million .

Despite all these advantages, in general, there is still a yuk factor connected with the idea of this alternative medical practice and others like it. People can’t stomach the thought of another animal eating from there body. The biggest challenge for the biophilia clinic is the change of perception in what we find desirable and repulsive.

Issues I have been considering include: How can the future of the biophilia clinic readdress our relationship with other organisms? How will the symbiotic partnership evolve? Why have we developed these reactions of repulsion in the first place?

Here’s the International Biotherapy Society’s mission:

In an era when many folk remedies are being rediscovered and the use of natural drugs is increasingly popular, we also witness a revival of the use of bacteria, protozoa, invertebrate animals such as fly larvae, bees and leeches in medical practice. The International Biotherapy Society (IBS) aims to support the use and understanding of living organisms in the treatment of human and animal diseases. The Society organizes international conferences for the exchange of information and ideas on subjects such as maggot debridement therapy, hirudotherapy, apitherapy and ichthiotherapy.

international biotherapy society

Also here’s a link to the transcript from the House of Commons Debate on the subject and it’s application in hospitals. House of Commons

You can buy medical sterile maggots from ZooBiotic Ltd

As the hygiene hypothesis predicts, (in a nutshell) – we are healthier when we are surrounded by the bacteria we have co-evloved with through our species evolutionary development. Yet why in contemporary society are we obsessed with antibacterial products which we spray to eliminate 99.9% of all bacteria in our homes. When did bacteria and other microbes get such a bad image? How do we find our way out this complicated paradox, and what might a counter reaction to the antibacteria era look like? Below are some notes from a Wired article called Hacking Your Body’s Bacteria for Better Health:

In sheer numbers, bacterial cells in the body outnumber our own by a factor of 10, with 50 trillion bacteria living in the digestive system alone, where they’ve remained largely unstudied until the last decade. As scientists learn more about them, they’re beginning to chart the complex symbiosis between the tiny bugs and our health.

“The microbes that live in the human body are quite ancient,” says NYU Medical Center microbiologist Dr. Martin Blaser, a pioneer in gut microbe research. “They’ve been selected (through evolution) because they help us.”

And it now appears that our daily antibacterial regimens are disrupting a balance that once protected humans from health problems, especially allergies and malfunctioning immune responses.

“Many of the most difficult problems in medicine today are chronic inflammatory diseases,” says Blaser. “These include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, atherosclerosis, eczema and multiple sclerosis. One possibility is that they’re autoimmune or genetic diseases. The other possibility is that they are physiological responses to changes in microbiota.”

Blaser’s specialty is Helicobacter pylori, a strain once common in every human stomach but now rare in the West. Its disappearance may have benefits: H. pylori-related inflammation is associated with peptic ulcers and some stomach cancers. However, H. pylori also reduces acid reflux, which in turn is associated with asthma and esophageal cancers.

To more precisely hack the gut bacteria, Blaser calls for a Gut Genome Project, modeled after the Human Genome Project. It’s a daunting task: The human genome, mapped to great fanfare but still dimly understood, contains a tenth of the genes believed to be in our gut bacteria. But though difficult, such research could prove vital.

“The world is very aware of the concept of global warming, which is a macro-ecological change,” Blaser says. “I postulate that there are similar micro-ecological changes going on inside us.”

Fistulated Cows

May 10, 2007


Fistula: a surgical opening made into a cavity or hollow organ of a human or animal.

Scientists use portholes or fistulas in the side of cows into their stomachs to get realtime access to the cows digestive system. Surprisingly the cows can live for a long time with a permanent hole in their stomachs.

Using fistulation and cannulation techniques, researchers have the ‘unique’ opportunity to prolong the cow’s life and longevity in a dairy herd. In the past researchers were able to test the feed that was fed to a cow in macroscopic experiments; attaining samples from the feed fed, and that which was excreted, but now they are able to test the digestibility and absorption of different feed commodities in the rumen through the porthole in the cow’s digestive system, the fistula.

Humans have also had fistula’s into their stomachs. One of the first recorded was a French Canadian named Alexis St. Martin. He sustained a life-threatening musket wound in 1822, and was marked a terminal case by his physician. However, he managed to survive and largely heal. He was mostly functional again within two years – except for a hole in his stomach that would never close. Through this hole doctors were able to examine inner workings of his stomach.

fistcow.jpgFistualted Cows at UC Davis