Structural scientists 3D print with microbial ink that could be used to construct buildings of the future

The hype surrounding 3D printing shows no signs of abating anytime soon, and for good reason: It’s a quick, inexpensive way to manufacture all kinds of different objects and structures, especially when conventional building materials are not available. Some scientists have radical ideas about what the next leap for 3D printing could be: making things using living microorganisms.

Yes, it sounds weird as hell and not just a bit of a horror, but stay with us here. A team of researchers in the US has demonstrated that it is possible to create 3D printed structures using E coli. These “living materials”, illustrated in a Nature Communications paper, which could pave the way for more sustainable construction of objects that can also be programmed to help improve human health or remove toxins from the environment.

“Our team has always been interested in engineering biology for making materials,” Northeastern University chemist and study co-author Neel Joshi told The Daily Beast. “In the same way that a seed has a set of genetic instructions to produce a plant, we wanted to give biological cells a set of genetic instructions to program them to produce structures with physical properties. regulation.”

In conventional 3D printing, a printer is loaded with some kind of “ink” and creates a three-dimensional object by printing ink layer after layer of ink until the object is finished. 3D bioprinting is similar, but the ink used to create these materials consists of living cells that can organize into solid structures. These “biological links,” MIT engineer and study co-author Avinash Manjula-Basavanna told The Daily Beast, can be found naturally in materials like plant silk and cellulose. But scientists are interested in making their own biological connections, because cells can be engineered to sense the environment and react accordingly.

Bioprinting has been used in several aspects of medicine such as creating artificial tissues to replace damaged ones, but this is one of the first times that bioprinting has been done using only micro-organisms. creature.

“We made this biological bond entirely from E coli,” Josh said. “We did this by using genetic engineering to control the mechanical properties” of the biological bond, such as stiffness and viscosity – something that has never been done before.

Modified group E coli to make a protein called fibrin, which helps form blood clots in mammals. This is new E coli converted into a biolink that creates focusable fibrin nanofibers into a solid 3D structure when 3D printed.

The structure is 3D printed by bio-linking. Gradient bar is equivalent to 1mm.

Duraj-Thatte et al.

As part of the study, the team used E coli– validated bio-link to print small structures a few millimeters in height and length – nothing major, but enough to demonstrate that this ink can indeed produce a stable shape and feasible.

Further testing also showed that when the biolink was combined with other engineered bacteria, it resulted in materials capable of releasing an anti-cancer drug called azurin; sequestering harmful chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA); and regulate the growth of other living cells.

Based on the results, the biggest potential application from this new biolink is probably in biomedical devices that could improve cancer treatment. But there are obviously plenty of other benefits worth exploring. Joshi says he thinks the biological link can be extended and can be combined with other components to create larger, more robust architectures — possibly even parts of a whole. building.

It’s a pretty wild idea, but the authors of the new study wouldn’t be the first to think about whether it’s possible to live in a building made of living organisms. NASA is considering whether Mushrooms could be the key to building homes on the moon and Mars. Joshi doesn’t rule out that perhaps bacterial ink can do the same thing. Structural scientists 3D print with microbial ink that could be used to construct buildings of the future


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