The Most Famous Artist, Matty Mo, infamous for his studio’s part in the monolith stunt in 2020, has dropped “The Most Sh*ttiest NFT”, the first non-fungible token (NFT) made with human fecal matter (his own, to be exact). Minted on OpenSea, this edition of one is a 360 degree video capture of an FMT¹ “crapsule” encased in a museum-quality glass cube auctioned as an NFT paired with the physical sculpture. Commissioned by microbial sciences company, Seed Health, all proceeds of the NFT will fund a gut-brain research grant for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Grant recipients will be selected by world-renowned microbiome researchers, Sarkis Mazmanian, Ph.D. and Christopher Mason, Ph.D.
“From Piero Manzoni to Chris Ofili and Andres Serrano, the use of human biomass in art has long sparked controversy around what should be considered “art,” and consequently, what is valuable. Today, NFTs are now in the cross hairs of this value system, disrupting a market that has been reserved for the curated few,” quipped Matty Mo. “By taking the taboo topic of human excrement and assigning it value, we are sending an important message that the very things that disgust us, may actually be what’s most valuable—in this case, for the future of health.”
As the science of stool has advanced, microbiome research is expanding beyond the gut and gastrointestinal (GI) conditions to this new frontier of the gut-brain axis—the communication between the GI tract, our gut microbiome, and the central nervous system.
“Our work demonstrates that stool is so much more than waste. It is a diagnostic tool containing microbial, chemical, physiological and functional indicators of human health,” stated Dr. Christopher Mason. “Decoding the components of stool helps us understand the behaviors and prevalence of diseases such as cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, even ASD, further illuminating the interwoven relationship between our gut microbiome and brain.”
Human ‘poop’ is also now prospected for its therapeutic potential. For example, FMT, or Fecal Microbiota Transplant, takes a microbial sample from the stool of a healthy donor and administers it to individuals suffering from certain diseases. New FMT research has also shown promise in dramatically improving behavior and gut symptoms among children with ASD.2
“This NFT draws attention to a new and disruptive view of medicine: that cures are already inside of us, optimized by nature and evolution. The funds from the NFT will go a long way in pushing the frontiers of biomedical research, particularly in ASD, toward microbiome-derived approaches such as FMTs that optimize health,” stated Dr. Mazmanian.
“We are now at a critical inflection point in gut-brain research. With new mechanistic discoveries in this field, we can move beyond correlation and characterize the critical functions microbes perform and how we may harness specific strains to develop breakthrough treatments for neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions,” stated Raja Dhir, Seed Health co-founder and co-CEO.
As part of its mission to pioneer new microbial applications, Seed Health has created provocative moments to engage the public and propel the microbiome into the zeitgeist with award-winning campaigns like the 2020 #GIVEASHIT Citizen Science initiative, which successfully crowdsourced the world’s first and largest database of stool images for use in academic research and in the development of novel digital health tools.
“Inspired by the disruptive spirit of the NFT community, we want to ignite a dialogue around this new frontier of gut-brain research,” stated Ara Katz, Seed Health co-founder and co-CEO. “We hope this inspires new opportunities for art to catalyze broader public engagement with areas of science that have the potential to impact the health of millions globally.”
The Most Sh*ttiest NFT will be offset using Aerial, a sustainability platform that sums the Ethereum gas used and calculates the carbon emissions based on the associated energy use. The net estimate for offsets is 15-20 tonnes, which Seed Health and Aerial will round to 25 tonnes for any future reselling, wallet transfers, and to maintain carbon negativity.
Disclaimer: Should you experience disgust, hatred, or confirmation bias, kindly close your browser. However, should you experience symptoms of perspective shifting, questioning, or a wry smile in the face of irony, congratulations—the world needs more humans like you.
¹ Kang, D. W., Adams, J. B., Coleman, D. M., Pollard, E. L., Maldonado, J., McDonough-Means, S., Caporaso, J. G., & Krajmalnik-Brown, R. (2019). Long-term benefit of Microbiota Transfer Therapy on autism symptoms and gut microbiota. Scientific reports, 9(1), 5821. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-42183-0
2 Svoboda, E. Could the Gut Microbiome Be Linked to Autism? Nature, vol. 577, no. 7792, 2020, doi:10.1038/d41586-020-00198-y