Thursday, August 5, 2010

Serratia Marcescens - "Blood of Christ"

A new bacterium to experiment with! Prof. Katayoun Chamanay of Eugene Lang Colleage had her summer students try their hands at painting with two strains of bacteria, each demanding a particular environment to cultivate and demonstrate their beauties. I made a brief visit to see their prints, hear their observations and questions about their work and share a some of my steps and foibles along the way to making E. coli pints with  Kristin. 
a print by one of Katayoun's students
I really like the "stochastic" nature of how and when this bacteria produces the deep red color.  And it's rumored history as having convinced religious skeptics of the possibility of transubstantiation makes it all the more interesting.  Read more on that story...

from wikipedia:
Because of its red pigmentation, caused by expression of the pigment prodigiosin,[13] and its ability to grow on bread, S. marcescens has been evoked as a naturalistic explanation of Medieval accounts of the "miraculous" appearance of blood on the Eucharist that led to Pope Urban IV instituting the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1264. This followed celebration of a Mass at Bolsena in 1263, led by a Bohemiantransubstantiation, or the turning of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass. During the Mass, the Eucharist appeared to bleed and each time the priest wiped away the blood, more would appear. This event is celebrated in a fresco in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, painted by Raphael.[14] priest who had doubts concerning

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