From a tribute to Houssay to the genome of the vizcacha: the history of chemistry that combines art and science

From a tribute to Houssay to the genome of the vizcacha: the history of chemistry that combines art and science

In the Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci He developed his life between paintings such as The Mona Lisa or The Last Supper and his works on anatomy and botany, among other disciplines, and his inventions. After Science and the arts came to be considered as mutually exclusive. However Now there are people who are artists and scientists or scientists simultaneously. And they have been able to dilute the limits. Argentina Patricia Saragüeta is one of them.

“I started writing poetry at the age of 9 and I have dedicated myself to carrying out different works as a conceptual artist during these last years. Also always I have been interested in science as a generator of knowledge” said Saragüeta, in an interview with Infobae.

She has a degree and a doctorate in chemistry and a researcher in medical sciences from Conicet in the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine (IBYME), and will be in Europe to exhibit his new work, which he considers a “Collaborative uterus”.

With their knowledge and experience, has already produced original art installations that pay tribute to the Argentine Nobel Prize in Medicine Bernardo Houssay and his disciple, Eduardo Charreau. He managed to decode the jaguar genome with colleagues from Brazil, the United States, Russia, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain and published it in the prestigious journal Science Advances.

Weeks ago, He added the genome of the vizcacha, the rodent species found from southern Bolivia and Paraguay to northern Patagonia in Argentina.

Saragüeta will then be in Europe for the next few days. It will be for present the work on the “collaborative womb” at the Ars Electronica Festival, in Linz, Austria. He made it with the English artist Charlotte Jarvis. It is a provocative work within the framework of an international festival that invites a journey “between truth, reality and the configuration of the future”.

The work was elaborated in different stages. Saragüeta and Jarvis grew a “uterus” from the menstrual blood of several women, trans and non-binary people. They designed a crystal calyx for endometrial cells. Last year they had also made a kind of “pilgrimage” to Tierra del Fuego with cells and biological material.

After working in the laboratory with cell donations and making the trip to the “end of the world”, Saragüeta and Jarvis will set up the installation at Ars Electrónica 2023. It will also include a poem by Saragüeta, video and music. It was all done with a grant from a European Union program and the facility is called “Organ of Radical Care: A Collaborative Matrix“.

“I like to make works that invite reflection. In the case of the installation with the collaborative uterus, we are interested in encouraging reflection on reproduction and depatriarchalization. Take away the individual property and think about who the cells are. It is also a bioethical debate,” said the doctor and artist in the dialogue with Infobae.

That art installation – which will also be exhibited in Finland and Croatia soon- is related to a find Saragüeta made last year. Both the artwork and its research used endometrial cancer cells that are known as “Ishikawa

These cells come from a 39-year-old Japanese woman who had a tumor in her endometrium. A cell line was generated that has been used as a model of endometrial cancer in laboratories around the world and helped lead to more than 500 publications.

The work published in 2022 in the journal e-Life consisted of characterizing gene expression in endometrial cancer. Saragüeta had the collaboration of researchers from the Foundation Institute of Nuclear Technologies for Health (Intecnus) in Bariloche, Conicet in Córdoba and Centre for Genomic Regulation of Barcelona, Spain. They identified which are the associated dysregulated regions in endometrial tumors.

Now added the first genome Chromosome-to-chromosome assembly of the vizcacha, which is an autochthonous mammal. It was carried out as part of the international consortium DNAZoo, led by researchers at the College of Medicine, Texas, United States, which seeks to create a database of animal genomes.

The study was made from a sample of an adult female vizcacha from the Pampas plain, which was provided by Conicet researchers in the Center for Basic, Applied and Development Biomedical Studies (CEBBAD) of Maimonides University. The results could be applied as tools in paleontology and archaeology.

Saragüeta was mentored by Joan Jonas, a pioneer in American and Argentine performance and video art Diana Bellesi in poetry. His intellectual references are the American ones. Donna Haraway and Ursula LeGuin, and the Belgian philosopher of science Vinciane Despret. He knows that “art not only moves but also makes you uncomfortable.”

In her installation on Houssay, the researcher and other artists attempted to account for unknown aspects of his personality. They had support from the Williams Foundation, the IBYME Foundation, and Conicet.

“Houssay’s image of severity and bronze coated predominated. I was interested in investigating his connection with the experimental, what caught his attention, how he wrote. I used the furniture used by Houssay and included photos in three ages, when I was a child, adult and senior. I was interested in rescuing the child who was in Houssay and how he was capturing his curiosity, “he said.

There are subtle coincidences between science and art, according to Saragüeta: “Science is the object of contemporary art. Today it can no longer be considered that science is on one side and art goes another way. For example, if you do a workshop on the problem of climate change, the transdisciplinary must be considered. The crossing is necessary to value the role of knowledge generation and improve this world in crisis that we inhabit today”.


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