'Stress-o-stat' is a living artwork that visually captures stress in bacteria as light. The life-size installation, combines scientific instruments, methods and aesthetics to produce a real and speculative device.
The work explores convergence between life and machine, where the machine controlling the bacteria becomes life-like and the bacteria, engineered through synthetic biology, machine-like.
Bioinformatics was used to locate a genetic switch (a promoter for Catalase III, katE) in the bacteria, Escherichia coli, genome that regulates oxidative stress response. The switch was physically extracted and combined with a fluorescent expression construct (e.g. BBa_E0840). Implemented in bacteria, fluorescing proteins are expressed during stress producing a yellow-green colour in response to blue light.