Scientists develop new method to 3D print living microbes
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a US federal research center located in California and founded by the University of California at Berkeley, announced that they had developed a new method to use 3D printing to bring living microbes into controlled models. They hope this will help increase the potential of bacteria to perform a number of crucial tasks, including rare earth metal recovery, wastewater purification, uranium detection and more, as scientists are reportedly in. able to bioprint more optimized microbial structures on biofilms. The team used a resin-based process and their own Stereolithographic Apparatus for Microbial Bioprinting (SLAM) 3D printer.
Bioprinting has long been gaining ground in the medical sector for its immense possibilities. For example, companies have already looked at how bioprinting can be used to print living cells to create organs or to conduct cancer research. In this case, rather than focusing on applications for human medical problems, the scientists found a way to use bioprinting to create more optimized models and structures using bacteria, allowing them to ‘be used for more applications.
To do this, the team used light and bacteria-infused resin to create the 3D patterned microbes. Using a technique reminiscent of LCD printing as they used photosensitive bioresins and then trapped the microbes in the appropriate 3D structures using an LED light, similar to a projector as can be seen on the picture above. Thanks to the SLAM 3D printer, researchers were able to print at a resolution of around 18 microns, the diameter of a human cell. By creating a different model of microbes, the researchers found that they can actually relate the performance of microbial communities to the task at hand. 3D printing gave them the opportunity to develop tools to study their behavior under different geometric conditions and see how to apply these results to real world applications.
LLNL Principal Investigator and Bioengineer William “Rick” Hynes has grown, âWe are trying to push the boundaries of 3D microbial culture technology. We believe that it is a very little studied space and that its importance is not yet well understood. We are working to develop tools and techniques that researchers can use to better study the behavior of microbes under geometrically complex, but highly controlled conditions. By accessing and improving applied approaches with better control over the 3D structure of microbial populations, we will be able to directly influence how they interact with each other and improve system performance within a biofabrication production process. If you want to know more, you can download the study HERE.
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* All image credits: Thomas Raison / LLNL