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Resilient Living Materials Built By Printing Bacterial Spores

By Lina M Gonzalez, Christopher A Voigt

Posted 02 Feb 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/537571

A route to advanced multifunctional materials is to embed them with living cells that can perform sensing, chemical production, energy scavenging, and actuation. A challenge in realizing this potential is that the conditions for keeping cells alive are not conducive to materials processing and require a continuous source of water and nutrients. Here, we present a 3D printer that can mix material and cell streams in a novel printhead and build 3D objects (up to 2.5 cm by 1 cm by 1 cm). Hydrogels are printed using 5% agarose, which has a low melting temperature (65°C) consistent with thermophilic cells, a rigid storage modulus (G'= 6.5 x 104), exhibits shear thinning, and can be rapidly hardened upon cooling to preserve structural features. Spores of B. subtilis are printed within the material and germinate on its exterior, including spontaneously in cracks and new surfaces exposed by tears. By introducing genetically engineered bacteria, the materials can sense chemicals (IPTG, xylose, or vanillic acid). Further, we show that the spores are resilient to extreme environmental stresses, including desiccation, solvents (ethanol), high osmolarity (1.5 mM NaCl), 365 nm UV light, and γ-radiation (2.6 kGy). The construction of 3D printed materials containing spores enables the living functions to be used for applications that require long-term storage, in-field functionality, or exposure to uncertain environmental stresses.

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