II. bactoyou

Ongoing group project. This project was chosen as a finalist for the BioDesign Challenge 2018 and was presented at MoMA, New York City, was showcased at the Nature/PostNature exhibition at Parsons School of Design and the Biodesign: From Inspiration to Integration at Woods-Gerry Gallery in Providence, 2018.

bactoyou™ is a microbial time machine that empowers its users to collect, sequence, explore, and bac-up their previous microbial states; By creating a historical database of their microbiome over time, we allow users to jump back in time and reconstitute their present gut microbiome based on specific previous states.

bactoyouTM explanatory video

background research. 
Our microbiome is composed of trillions of bacteria; most are collected from our surroundings and the food we eat, many are passed down through generations, and some might even come from the person sitting next to you. It is still unknown how the microbiome works exactly, yet we do know it influences us in many ways.

Currently known factors that affect the gut microbiome 

Going through the current technological solutions for sequencing DNA, we learned about some existing devices that make this possible. But the problem is that they are all very tech-centered and are all designed to be used by the scientists and experts. So we decided we wanted the blend the current technology into some solution that is more human-centered.

Current systems at place are company oriented. Meaning that users buy their services and those companies retain the right of using users’ data. The more the user, the larger the database. These companies use their user database to make profits from research while users share nothing from these profits.

The greater we increase the user database, the faster knowledge will advance. As designers, we are here to make sure that, in this process, users remain at the center of the operation. bactoyou™ is trying to establish a protocol in the microbiome so that users will always be aware of the research, accessing the benefits, and enjoying a healthier life.

Through this service, we aim to inform users of the importance and possibilities that their microbiome data holds for future health and well-being, while at the same time promoting behavioral change towards a healthier way to relate with our bacterial self. bactoyou™ intersects society at the boundaries of globalization, science and health. Our mission is both to help people understand and benefit directly from science and to help scientists thrive and benefit from public interest and participation in science.

the prototypes.
From all the current technologies, the way MinION functioned attracted our attention because relatively, It’s a more user friendly solution with a lot of advantages. Being inspired by its technology we started developing ideas around how we can translate that to a domestic object that would come into our lives and merge with the existing restroom ritual. We decided we would add it to a toilet paper holder and make the sampling, part of the pooping process.

Preliminary sketches to explore ideas

We wanted to integrate the cutting edge technology of sequencing poop samples into users’ existing restroom ritual. These are the results we landed on. There are three different versions of the product:

As we mainly designed the product having the western user in mind, we also observed the different cultural requirements knowing that not everyone uses the toilet in the same way. As a result we designed the squat version for people who don’t use toilet papers in order for them to make the sampling possible with a cotton swab instead.

The pad slot on the sequencer will push out a bac-up pad after being activated. The user can then takes the pad for sampling and send bac to the intake slot of the sequencer.

bactoyou™ users can order their customized bac-up pills based on any chosen reports from their bac-up time machine. The bac-up pills contains the duplicate of a user’s gut microbiome as it was on the selected date. The bac-up pill is the perfect way for users to regain their lost bacteria.

future steps.
As we were developing the project as a group of designers, we got in touch and got many feedbacks and comments from experts in the microbiome research field.

Prof. MD.  Martin Blaser  
Director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU School of Medicine
“I like this project very much. These students have captured an approach to process, in which the whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts. Injecting their new ideas helps keep this field moving ahead, and can catalyze many future (and currently unknowable) innovations.”

Dr. Daniel McDonald  
Scientific Director of the American Gut Project Spokesman, Rob Knight lab.
“I love the concept, it’s like poop combined with Apple Time Machine.”

Dr. Mathijs Bergman
Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems
“With increasing knowledge on the correlation between gut microbiome and obesity, anxiety and depression, bactoyou™ offers the possibility to go back to the composition of the microflora even in case of psychological complaints in the time that these complaints did not yet occur.”

Dr. Amanda Hurley  
Postdoctoral Researcher at Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, former Molecular Biology researcher at Princeton University
“bactoyou will revolutionize personalized medicine.”

Prof. Leendert Hamoen
General Microbiology, University of Amsterdam
“With bactoyou physical and mental data can be linked to the system, eventually correlating these variables to microbiome dynamics.”

Associate Prof. Davida Smyth
Chair Natural Sciences at Mercy College
“It's so NY. You can get everything delivered to your door, your food, your laundry .... and now your own customized poop pill .... Back to the Poopture.”

Team:  Juliette van Haren, Arian Ghousi, Yuxin Cheng and Ignacio Garnham Brandes.Special thanks to Jane Pirone, Jennifer Wightman, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Lisa Norton and Katayoun Chamany, for their ongoing and generous help and support.

© Juliette van Haren 2019    ︎  ︎