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J Appl Microbiol. 2005;98(1):73-83.

Biotechnology applied to cultural heritage: biorestoration of frescoes using viable bacterial cells and enzymes.

Author information

1
DISTAAM, Università del Molise, Campobasso, Italy. ranalli@unimol.it

Abstract

AIMS:

To set up and employ, for the biorestoration of cultural heritage (altered frescoes), an advanced and innovative biotechnology method based on the sequential use of whole viable bacterial cells and specific enzymes.

METHODS AND RESULTS:

The bioremediation intervention consisted of the direct application onto an artwork surface of whole bacterial cells of the Pseudomonas stutzeri A29 strain (bioaugmentation), followed by, in a final step, a purified Protease enzyme. The bioremediation was performed on a Spinello Aretino fresco that had become altered by the animal glue residues of past restoration. For the reader's interest the fresco is the 14th century Conversione di S. Efisio e battaglia (Conversion of S. Efisio and battle), size 3.5 x 7.8 m at the Pisa Camposanto Monumentale, Italy. An assessment was made of the final costs of the biological tests (whole bacterial cells, enzymes) so as to compare them with other intervention techniques.

CONCLUSIONS:

A successful innovative biological approach to recover valuable frescoes was set up, and the best conditions for treatment efficiency were identified. Furthermore the cost of the biological cleaning using viable bacterial cells and enzymes (P. stutzeri, Protease, Collagenase, 1 : 3 : 10, ratio respectively) was much lower than that of other conventional methods, making this biotechnology not only very interesting but also very competitive.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY:

New biotechnologies with an innovative, soft approach to the 'biocleaning' and 'biorestoration' of cultural heritage are in constant demand, and our results are clear evidence that such an approach has been achieved; the technique could be of significant importance towards developing other goals.

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