Paraffin wax, aluminum, and polyethylene foam
Acrylic case: 13 3/8 x 17 1/4 x 4 3/4" (34 x 43.8 x 12.1 cm)
The E. chromi project is the result of a collaboration between Royal College of Art Design Interactions graduates James King and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) 2009 Team of the University of Cambridge. iGEM is a yearly competition, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between undergraduate student teams working in the field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is an area of scientific research focused on the possibility of redesigning, engineering, and constructing entirely new biological systems. The iGEM Team of the University of Cambridge, for example, took E. coli, bacteria found in the human gut (and generally harmless; only a few strains are dangerous enough to cause illness and death), and altered them so that they would change color when exposed to various chemicals produced by the body in the presence of different pathogens. King and Ginsberg collaborated with the team on potential applications for the engineered bacteria. The outcome was a new diagnostic system called E. chromi: a straightforward method, using the body’s natural output, of visualizing a patient’s internal conditions. The patient ingests a drink, much like a probiotic shake, laced with the engineered E. coli; the bacteria react with the enzymes, proteins, and other chemicals that are present in the gastrointestinal tract and turn different colors for different diseases, thus changing the color of the patient’s feces. These colors are presented in King and Ginsberg’s Scatalog, a collection of samples in a briefcase that demonstrate an array of E. chromi results in immediate visual terms. The designers give us access to the complex networks and systems of the human body.