Weeks ago, at the outdoor cafe in the courtyard of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, scientist Carol Marchetto sat down with artist Thomas DeMello to go over some of her research.
Her lab is studying cell reprogramming, a technology that takes adult cells and genetically modifies them to become pluripotent cells, which act like embryonic stem cells and can make copies of themselves indefinitely and grow into other cells in the body, blood or brain.
“You can close the part of the book that says, ‘I am a skin cell,’ and open the part of the book that says, “I am going to be a pluripotent cell,'” Marchetto said.
The new cells, she said, have all kinds of uses, including potentially helping people with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative and psychiatric disorders.
DeMello took what he learned from his conversation with Marchetto and created an art piece for “Extra-Ordinary Collusion,” an exhibition opening Saturday at the San Diego Art Institute.
DeMello ended up making UV-printed images of the neurons that he’ll install on a skylight in SDAI’s gallery.