This summer we're mapping 23 monument microbiomes in major European cities to see what's living there.
There’s a lot more to this earth than meets the eye: an invisible and unexplored world of microorganisms that have been living secret lives since the dawn of time. These interactions have clandestinely shaped our health, environment, even the weather and now we finally have the technology to investigate what’s going on.
Mapping the human gut microbiome to create new ways to prevent disease is our bread and butter, but sometimes it’s nice to diversify and invest time and resources into projects that catch the imagination. Like mapping the microscopic organisms that live on our most beloved and iconic statues.
The urban biome
To put it in context, there’s a worldwide drive to map the microbiome of underground mass transit. It started with PathoMap back in 2013, whose goal was to create a molecular map of New York, and then evolved into something much bigger.
Dmitry Alexeev and Miguel Toribio-Mateas swabbing Trafalgar's Lions
When the study results came back, 48% of the DNA was untraceable to known organisms. That meant that nearly half their samples contained the DNA of microscopic creatures that have yet to be identified.
Anyway, Pathomap quickly became Metasub, an international collective of researchers and labs dedicated to elucidating the microscopic mysteries of public transport around the world.
And so, our research might seem like fun (and it is), but it also has the potential to reveal even more novelties about the secret lives of microbes.
Cities to be swabbed
We already started in the UK near our homebase in London. Our head of research, Dmitry Alexeev who oversees all our scientific projects, was out with on town Miguel Toribio-Mateas, a neuroscientist and nutritionist with a penchant for the gut-brain axis.
Their swabs got intimate with the statues of Sherlock Holmes, Paddington Bear, Oscar Wilde and one of Trafalgar Square's Lions last weekend. We’ll also be hitting up Edinburgh, because we like the weather, and the Netherlands, where our lab tests your DNA and microbiome samples.
Seeing as we’ll be visiting 16 European cities on this landmark tour, that substantially increases your chances of getting a selfie with members of our team. If you do, post it on social media, tag us and we’ll send you a surprise. We don’t have dates yet, but here are the next statues on our Swablist 2019:
|Edinburgh, UK||Greyfriars Bobby|
|David Hume statue|
|Verona, Italy||Statue of Juliet,Casa di Guilietta|
|Paris||Victor Noir’s Tomb|
|Buste de Dalida, Montmartre|
|Monte Carlo, Monaco||Adam and Eve statue|
|Prague, Czech Rep.||St. John of Nepomuk Statue|
|Budapest, Hungary||Fat Policeman|
|Little Princess statue|
|Munich, Germany||Juliet Capulet Statue|
|Sitting Wild Boar|
|Lion Statue, Odeonplatz|
|Stockholm, Sweden||Järnpojken Boy|
|Margaretha Krook Sculpture|
|Amsterdam, Netherlands||The Bronze Breastplate|
|Moscow, Russia||Dog Statue at Ploschad Revolutsii|
|St Petersburg, Russia||Bank Bridge, Griboedov Channel|
That’s quite a list, I think you’ll agree. And yes, apparently the people in charge of selecting the monuments are germanophiles (blame the pretzels). We’ve rallied the troops and cast a wide net in our offices to find random members of our team ready and able to travel.
It’s just of the perks of working for a company like Atlas Biomed, travelling and swabbing stuff to put in the big book of knowledge called science.
We’re excited, we hope you are too!