Giant Microbes: A Great Holiday Gift for the Microbiologist in Your Life!

If you’ve wandered near a microbiology/cell biology lab recently, or maybe even a grad student’s apartment, you might have noticed some fluffy-looking microbial denizens.  They’re called Giant Microbes and they have been multiplying for years!

I’ve been collecting these things since undergrad.  Sometimes I’ll add them on to an order at ThinkGeek, or I’ll get them as gifts from friends and family.  At current count, I have eight – enough to fill a box with squishy, lovable, deadly diseases.

So why bring them up now?  Well there are some new Giant Microbes that have just come out and the company was nice enough to send me a few to review.

First up is Cancer.”  Now my cell biologist friends will probably be the first to point out that “cancer” isn’t one type of cell, but a whole range of cells affected by a similar phenomenon.  Essentially normal cells lose control of their regulatory functions and begin to grow wildly.

The Giant Microbe starts out as a big friendly epithelial cell with two eyes and a zipper mouth.  Open up the zipper and turn it inside out – it become a furry sphere, representing how some cancer cells can develop spreading tendrils.  Or, conversely, turn it inside out again and you’ve done the impossible…cured cancer!  I will say that unlike some other giant microbes, this might not be great for young children, as the cancer form is a bit scary, but older kids and lab scientists will probably get a kick out of such a quick “cure.”

The other neat thing that Giant Microbes has been doing for a few years now is their special holiday sets.  I believe they started out with Valentine’s Day themed Heart Warming and Heart Burned boxes of microbes.  You can check the links for lists of included microbes, but in summary, the warming ones are friendly, pro-love microbes and the burning ones have more to do with venereal diseases.  Each box has five mini microbes, perfect for populating your desk.

Since releasing the Heart Boxes, they have followed the same trend with both Christmas AND Halloween.  I haven’t inspected the Halloween Box, but it’s essentially a bunch of microbes in clever costumes.

I now have both the first and third installment of the Christmas Boxes.  These are great, not only because they are clever minis, but also because they are ornaments that can decorate your tree (either at home or a tiny tree in the lab).  Personally, my collection travels home with me each year so I can trim my family’s tree with microbial life.

The third box in particular is pretty clever.  It’s wreath-shaped and contains 5 mini ornaments.  To quote the website:

Sore Throat singing Christmas carols, White Blood Cell dressed up as a snowman with top hat and carrot nose, Stomach Ache as a delectable gingerbread man, Nerve Cell with angel wings and halo, and a limited edition shimmering gold Amoeba, only available in this set!

I particularly like the “Sore Throat,” since it’s such a clever and ironic costume.  Most of the sets have a special amoeba that is unique to that set.

I heartily recommend these and other Giant Microbes.  Each year more and more microbes are added to their catalog.  If your favorite model organism or causative agent isn’t listed, maybe send them a message and see if they could add it to the drawing board.  Enjoy your microbes…just make sure they don’t enjoy YOU!

Leave a Reply