Programmable and printable Bacillus subtilis biofilms as engineered living materials
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Bacteria could be used to create materials that can grow, self-heal and evolve with their surroundings.
Synthetic biologists are harnessing living cells to engineer non-living materials with life-like abilities. But for use in humans, these materials must be safe and stable with completely controllable properties.
A team that included researchers from Shanghai Tech University used genetic engineering to modify the fibrous protein biofilms otherwise naturally produced by the harmless bacterium Bacillus subtilis.
By reprogramming the bacterium’s TasA protein, they could produce biofilms with different properties, from fluorescence to the ability to assist in breaking down pesticides. The biofilms could be 3D printed into diverse shapes and self-regenerate for several weeks without losing performance.
This bacterial biofilm factory could produce versatile materials for medical implants, biosensors and drug delivery.
- Nature Chemical Biology 15, 34–41 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41589-018-0169-2