With only an incubator and a broth of bacteria, a group of scientists managed to develop living materials from bacteria capable of producing them. But construction is not the only talent of these creatures. In addition, they can also purify contaminated water, protect surfaces from rust and mold, and detect chemicals in the environment.

How did they achieve this achievement? This is the answer from the conversation Sarah Molinari, PhD Research Fellow in Synthetic Biology at Rice University. In his publication in the aforementioned media, Molinari comments that he “programmed bacteria to form living materials that can not only be modified for various applications, but also quickly and easily produced.”

To do this, he put into practice all the knowledge in the field of synthetic biology, DNA and behavior in the metabolism of bacteria. From here, he decided to endow these tiny living beings with instructions by which can generate new proteinsincluding those that do not exist in its nature.

Creation of living materials from living cells

Given that these living materials are made from living cells, they can be genetically modified to perform any task. It’s like you’re installing a new app on your phone..

Thus, bacteria can respond to different elements depending on their programming. For example, can become environmental pollution sensors the ability to change color upon contact with various molecules.

Quickly and easily build living materials

YouTube video

This is not the first time someone has done this type of bacterial programming. In fact, in 2020 we have already seen cases of “living architecture” and it was about investigations that they wanted bacteria to build entire buildings. The results, as in Molinari’s study, were very promising.

For programming, Molinari used a specific bacterium. The bacterium’s DNA has been altered. Caulobaccer Crescent. From here, the cells could produce on their surface a matrix consisting of elastic proteins in large quantities. Subsequently, these proteins can bind to each other and form hydrogels.

“When two genetically engineered bacterial cells come close to each other, these proteins stick together and hold the cells together. Surrounding each cell with this sticky elastic material, the bacterial cells stick together to form a living slime.”


Finally, elastic proteins can be modified to change the properties of the desired material. In this way, they can turn bacteria into materials that can repair themselves if damaged, and even create other softer materials that can serve as fillers for other products.

What are the benefits of creating materials from bacteria?

living materials, building material created from biocells
Building material made from cells

Although this technology has not yet reached high levels of complexity, it has already begun to prove its advantages. One of them is the cost and energy requirement in production.. As Molinari describes, they are quite low and provide a sustainable and economical process.

Also, currently you don’t need much to get started. In fact, he claims that “only one shaker incubator neededproteins and sugars for growing multifunctional highly productive material from bacteria”.

“The incubator is nothing more than a metal or plastic box that maintains a temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), which is much lower than in a typical home oven, and stirs the cells at slower speeds than at the blender. .”

Sara Molinari

In addition, it is a relatively fast process. Molinari notes that, together with his colleagues managed to grow living materials from bacteria in just 24 hours.. This, compared to the production process of other materials, is quite fast. Including living materials such as wood, which can take years to produce.

Its transportability and storage is another positive point. They can survive indoors at room temperature for up to 3 weeks, and grow again when they are in the right environment.

Finally, we have the importance of sustainability. This production method is environmentally friendly and able to create biodegradable materialsnon-toxic and easily destroyed.

Source: Hiper Textual

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