A 3D ink made of living cells for creating living structures

Bob Yirka is a writer for Phys.org.

The design strategy, production, and functional applications of microbial ink are shown in the first figure. The CsgA- and CsgA- are crosslinked by the knob-hole binding interaction. 3D printed microbial ink can be used to make functional living materials. Credit: DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26791-x

A team of researchers from Harvard University and the Harvard Medical School have developed a type of ink that can be used to print living materials. The group describes how they made their ink in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

For several years, engineers have been working to develop a way to create living materials for use in a wide variety of applications. Getting such materials to conform to desired structures has been a challenge. The researchers have taken a new approach to tackling the problem by engineering Escherichia coli to produce a product that can be used as the basis for an ink for use in a 3D printer.

The work began with the creation of living fiber. The researchers bundled the fibers and added other ingredients to make a living ink that could be used in a 3D printer. The team bio engineered other microbes to make other types of living fibers and added them to the ink. They used the ink to make 3D objects. One of the materials was stimulated by certain chemicals to produce azurin. A material that sequestered a toxin found in the environment without assistance from other chemicals or devices was another.

The researchers believe that the idea of producing such ink could be a self-creating proposition. The ink could be grown in a jar if engineering was added to the microbes. It is possible that the technique could be used to print renewable building materials that could grow and heal themselves, which would be a great way to build self-sufficient homes on the moon or on Mars.

Anna M. Duraj-Thatte and her team have developed a method for 3D printing living materials from genetically engineered small particles. There is a DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26791-x.

Nature Communications is a journal.

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A 3D ink made of living cells was retrieved 27 November 2021.

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