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Amelogenesis Imperfecta 2010
SymbioticA, University of Western Australia, Perth

Amelogenesis (Im)Perfecta is an experimental biological research project that fused the disciplines of art and dentistry, conducted during a 6-month residency at SymbioticA Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, University of Western Australia, Perth. By borrowing techniques, technologies, and biomaterials from dental science, Khang explored the possibilities of growing enamel in vitro to produce what are in effect ‘enamel sculptures.’ Epithelial and mesenchymal cells were harvested from an unerupted porcine enamel organ / tooth bud, and grown in vitro, that was to be seeded onto a synthetic bioscaffold.

While the project failed in its objective of growing enamel, the epithelial cells that would have differentiated into ameloblasts (enamel-producing cells) were seeded instead onto glass slides. These functioned as the ‘canvas’ upon which the cells were ‘drawn’ on with a precise cutting laser under high magnification. The laser-drawings on the sheet of cells are invisible to the naked human eye, and become visible under a microscope.

This residency is generously funded by The Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.

1: harvested porcine tooth bud
2: primary cell culture fixed and stained on glass slide
3: glass slide under a microscope
4: How deep is the skin of teeth  (10x magnified) laser-engraved text on cells fixed to glass slide
5: What is the smallest measure of life (100x magnified) laser-engraved text inside a single cell fixed on glass slide
6: Sharks (4x magnified) laser-engraved images on cells fixed to glass slide
7: Sharks (detail)
8: mitotic cells in the process of cell division

Photos: David Khang


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