Bacteria get a fresh gig as art restorers in Italy

A marble sculpture of a nude bearded man reclining
An image of Michalangelo’s The Day, part of the tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici. This image was taken in 2002, long before bacteria got a chance to feast on its grime. | Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

Michelangelo’s marbles in the Medici Chapel were looking dingy, so a team of art restorers decided to smear some bacteria on the situation. The specialized microbes cleaned up centuries of grime, leaving the marble statues with a fresh new look, The New York Times reports.

The team selected specialized strains of bacteria to target different stains on the marble. Some types of bacteria can thrive in harsh environments and are adapted to eating things that can cause humans problems. These bacteria can break down things like pollutants into relatively harmless components.

In this case, the team looked for bacterial strains that would eat away at the stains and other gunk, without harming the marble itself, and tested their top choices on…

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