Let your White blood cells access your immune system in ‘Blood Wars’

by Shalu Pillai

I’ve always been fascinated at studies people conduct in the name of science. And I mean that well. Now, it takes a scientist to conceptualize a Blood Wars, “tournament” that aims to see which person has the strongest immune system. An art-science installation that will pit white blood cells from two different people against each other, with an ulterior aim to show the tension between art and science and the cultural, economic and ethical implications of biosciences today. The piece, by artist Kathy High, forms part of a new experimental exhibition between research laboratory SymbioticA and Dublin’s Science Gallery, called Visceral. In order to create the blood duel, High takes blood samples from two different people. She then separates the white blood cells from the rest of the blood and stains them with different colors. These cells are then placed in a Petri dish and their interactions are filmed under a microscope using time-lapse microscopy. As in any war, the “winner” of each round will go onto fight another participant.

Other mentionable exhibits include Semi-Living Worry Dolls, tissue-engineered sculptures inspired by Guatemalan worry dolls given to children to tell their concerns to and the Cryobook Archives, featuring a series of handmade books made from human and pig tissue, HaCat cells and a synthetic biological virus (Lentivirus), all displayed in a portable freezer unit. Visceral runs until 25 February at Dublin’s Science Gallery. Take a look at the world of the weird and wonderful below.