Da Vinci's Drawings Contain a Surprising Mix of Bacteria, Fungi, And Human DNA - ScienceAlert
Nov 21, 2020 1 min, 14 secs

The findings, the researchers said, could help build a microbiome "catalogue" for artwork.

And the drawings' microbiomes had enough key elements in common to help researchers spot counterfeits based on differences in their microbiomes, or even authentic drawings that had been stored in different conditions over the centuries.

The researchers also showed that da Vinci's drawings had a significantly different microbiome than expected, with lots of bacteria and human DNA — likely a consequence of centuries of handling by art restorers and other people.

Microbes known to make paper degrade over time were also present, showing why those restorers' efforts had been necessary The study amounts to a proof-of-concept exercise, showing how microbiomes might, in the future, reveal unexpected histories of certain artworks or help detect forgeries.

Researchers examined the microscopic biological material, living and dead, in seven of the master's "emblematic" drawings, and found an unexpected diversity of bacteria, fungi and human DNA.

The biggest surprise, the researchers wrote, was the high concentration of bacteria in the drawings, especially as compared with fungi.

Past studies have shown that fungi tend to dominate the microbiomes of paper objects such as these drawings, but in this case an unusually high amount of bacteria from humans and insects (likely flies that pooped on the paper at some point) were present. .

The researchers used a new tool called Nanopore, a genetic sequencing method that quickly breaks down and analyzes genetic material, to make the detailed study of the different biological materials.


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