Michael Mosley vs Superbugs – A World-First Experiment for a BBC Documentary!
“Professor Clements and Mellissa created a life-size replica of Michael Mosely’s body out of agar – a jelly-like substance obtained from algae which is commonly used in scientific experiments. Their creation represents the world’s first human-sized 3D sculpture to be made out of agar. In order to successfully complete the experiment, they created a new casting technique and specially commissioned a secure casing to enclose the figure.” – University of Lincoln Press
The rise of antibiotic resistance is becoming an increasingly urgent issue within science and medicine. As this resistance increases, many questions are raised, including whether the over-use of antibiotics within our first-world society, has been the root cause.
For their revival of the television series, Tomorrow’s World, the BBC wanted to examine the bacteria that live on the human skin, and demonstrate how they interacted with antibiotics. These bacteria can be both good and bad.
SPACER was approached by artist Mellissa Fisher to collaborate on this ground-breaking project, which of course we couldn’t resist (no pun intended). So, on a chilly December day, we life-cast Michael Mosley in our studios here in Ramsgate.
From that initial mould, we then made a plaster positive. This allowed us to design and innovate a unique rubber mould that would be able to receive the 80 litres of hot liquid agar required for this world first experiment.
‘Microbial Michael’ was the title given to the agar cast of Michael, who, on the day of the initial life-cast, also had areas of his body swabbed for bacterial data. Consequently, these microbes were then transferred to the agar cast, and were encouraged to grow over a period of a few days.
Seen above, the blue half of the sculpture contained a standard agar allowing the bacteria present on Michael’s skin to grow. In contrast, the other half was coated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic so that the presence of any resistance would be seen.
To his surprise, Michael found that bacteria resistant to antibiotics are present on his agar self. If his immune system was to be compromised in any way, some of these microbes could even turn a bit nasty…
In our media gallery below, you’ll see a short video on the making of the specialist casing in our studios. You’ll also find a clip from the BBC of Michael meeting ‘Microbial Michael’, for the first time.