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We live in a biological world completely surrounded by rich communities of micro-organisms, but also in a cultural world that emphasizes total antisepsis.

The intersection of our interests in smell and microbial communities led the smell artist Sissel Tolaas and the biologist Christina Agapakis to focus on cheese as a model organism. Many of the most aromatic cheeses are hosts to species of bacteria that are closely related to the bacteria responsible for the characteristic smells of human armpits or feet.

Sissel Tolaas Cheese

But could that mean that knowledge and tolerance of bacterial cultures in our food could improve the tolerance of bacteria on our body and in other aspects of our life? Sissel & Christina‘s project is work in progres, but raises a lot of questions already.

Sissel Tolaas cheese

How do human cultures cultivate and value bacterial cultures on cheeses and fermented foods? How will synthetic biology change with a better understanding of how species of bacteria work together in nature, as opposed to the sterile cultures of the lab? Will we be able to re-engineer bacterial communities? How will synthetic biology change our relationship to the microbial communities that surround us?

Here is the great video about the idea:

Stay curious! Yours, Fran