The rise of antibiotic resistance is becoming an urgent issue within science and medicine. Questions continue to be asked as this resistance increases with a focus on whether the over-use of antibiotics within our first-world society, has been the root cause.

The BBC, for their revival of the television series, Tomorrow’s World, 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.

Artist Mellissa Fisher approached us to collaborate on this ground-breaking project, which of course we couldn’t resist (no pun intended). So, on a chilly December day, our team took a life-cast of Michael Mosley in our studios here in Ramsgate.

From that initial mould, Steve then made a plaster positive. This, therefore, allowed us to design and innovate a unique rubber mould. The mould would then be able to receive the 80 litres of hot liquid agar required for this experiment.

Microbial Michael

‘Microbial Michael’ was the title given to the agar cast of Michael Mosley. On the day of the life cast, Mellissa and Professor Clements swabbed areas of Michael’s body for bacterial data. Consequently, these microbes were transferred to the agar cast and were encouraged to grow over a few days in a controlled environment.

The sculpture was split into two. One half of the sculpture contained a standard agar allowing the bacteria present on Michael’s skin to grow. This half had turned blue as bacteria had started to grow. The other half of the sculpture was coated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic so that the presence of any resistance would be seen.

Michael, to his surprise, found that bacteria resistant to antibiotics were present on his agar self. If his immune system was compromised in any way, some of these microbes could even turn a bit nasty…

In our media gallery below, we have added 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.

“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 are 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

Audience Reach

Video by Artist Mellissa Fisher