Washington, July 13 (PTI): A Dutch artist has grown a living replica of the ear that Vincent Van Gogh sliced off in a troubled episode, using genetic material from one of the post-Impressionist painter’s direct descendants.
“The ear is grown with Lieuwe Van Gogh’s cells,” Dutch artist Diemut Strebe Strebe told Gizmag.
“By his natural relationship to Vincent, he carries in his cells the white chromosomes of Vincent and a 16th of his genome,” Strebe said.
Lieuwe is the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo and readily donated a bit of his skin for the project. With a lifespan of 80 years or more, the ear could live as long as any one of us, said Strebe.
Strebe figured out the shape of the ear by looking at a photo of the artist, and extrapolated the measurements to create a 3D-printed mould that approximated its shape.
A scaffold placed in the mould was seeded with Van Gogh’s cells, which grew until the ear reached its final form.
To genetically engineer the ear to be as close to Vincent’s as possible, Strebe collaborated with scientists at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of a project called “Sugababe”. Strebe is investigating the idea of replicating people from historical DNA.
Along with some of Van Gogh’s genetic material, the ear is made up of some genetically engineered components.
Van Gogh is believed to have cut off his own ear during a psychotic episode in 1888. However, some historians claim that his friend and painter Paul Gaugin nicked it off during a fight.