Spit Crystal

by Inés Cámara Leret

A healthy individual produces between 0.75 and 1.5 litres of saliva a day, and, whilst 99.5% of this clear and odourless fluid is water the remaining 0.5% provides an incredible insight on who we are, our biological blueprint.

Accompanying this is a material that Homer defined as a divine substance and that Plato described as especially dear to the gods known as salt. Its prolific use across civilisations and throughout time evidences mankind’s sheer dependency upon the existence of this material. A material without which saliva would cease to exist.

Spit Crystal was the result of a two month journey, commissioned by Science Gallery London, to study the potential of saliva alongside salivary researchers and crystallography experts based at Kings College London. The research produced was displayed alongside a large-scale replica of the crystal grown from the artist’s spit at Kings College London following the saline composition found in saliva.


Inés Cámara Leret adopts the role of an alchemist that observes, understands, and rearranges a system’s structure, to embark the viewer on a journey to question the symbiosis between cause and effect. Having achieved a Masters in Fine Arts, with a distinction, from Wimbledon College of Art in 2015, her work has been shown in the UK, Croatia, Spain & Italy. She has received commissions from the V&A, Merton Council, Drugo More & Abandon Normal Devices. Recently, Inés has been the recipient of an intermediate grant from Wandsworth Council to support curatorial endeavour, NTWRK: a three month art take-over.

Website: www.inescamaraleret.com


Prof Gordon Proctor received his PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Sheffield.  He is Head of the Mucosal & Salivary Biology Division at King’s College London Dental Institute and was previously appointed as a Professor of Salivary Biology in 2006 having been a Reader in Secretory Biology, University of London from 1998-2005.  Gordon has published extensively on the stimulation of salivary gland secretion and the composition, properties and function of saliva in health and in disease.

Jack Houghton is a Postgraduate Research Student working under the supervision of Prof Gordon Proctor and Dr Guy Carpenter. His research is focused on how chemicals that stimulate particular proteins on the surface on cells affect the salivary glands. It is anticipated that this will lead to the identification of products that can alter mouthfeel and salivary secretion. Before his PhD, Jack worked as a Research Assistant in the Salivary Research Unit and as a Bioinformatician for the Proteomics Unit. He earned his degree in Biochemistry from the University of Liverpool, where he worked on the improvement of salivary analysis.

Lucy Blandford studied Biochemistry at the University of Bath. Following her degree, she completed an MSc at The University of Reading in Nutrition and Food Science, where she furthered her interest in gastrointestinal microbes and their relation to health and disease. Before starting her PhD at King’s College London, she worked for a year at a biotechnology company (ImmBio) in Cambridge. Lucy’s PhD project focused on the the role of carcinogenic bacteria Bacteroides fragilis and Fusobacterium nucleatum in colorectal cancer.

Matt Blakely studied Biomedical Science at University of Warwick, with a final year project studying the factors influencing the emergence of diseases spread by animals such as mosquitoes. After graduation he worked in pharmaceutical quality assurance in microbiology at AstraZeneca.  Matt’s PhD project is focused on looking into the role of vitamin-binding proteins in human saliva, and determining the impact that oral health may have on vitamin status throughout the body.

Brian Sutton is Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Head of Structural Biology at King’s College London. He studied chemistry at Oxford University and then trained in X-ray crystallography for his doctorate. He was a Royal Society University Research Fellow in Oxford before moving to King’s in 1987, where he began to apply X-ray crystallography to study the antibodies involved in allergic diseases, in particular asthma. The aim of his research is to develop new therapeutic agents based upon detailed knowledge of molecular structure. He is a founder member of the MRC & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma.

After completing her MPharm degree in the University of Athens Alki Mitropoulou came to the UK to study. She started her PhD at King’s College London under the supervision of Prof Brian Sutton using new approaches to solve challenging problems in protein crystallography focused on allergy and asthma. She has now moved into the field of cryo electron microscopy, where she hopes to get structural insights into protein involved in Asthma. She has participated in a number of outreach events in recent years and took part in the 2013 MRC Centenary Celebrations at the Science Museum, KCL and in Southbank.

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