Biologists have created a programmable living matter from bacteria

(ORDO NEWS) — The new technology makes it possible to grow colonies of artificial bacteria with a volume of several cubic centimeters.

It turns out a jelly-like substance of a certain shape, capable of performing the functions specified in the genome.

Biologists from Rice University (USA) have presented a technology for growing living material in the form of artificial bacteria capable of self-organization.

Scientists edit their genome for specific tasks, and then these bacteria, with the help of a special protein, reproduce themselves and line up in macroscopic structures. Previously, it was not possible to achieve such behavior from genetically modified bacteria.

The scientists used Caulobacter crescentus, a sickle-shaped bacterium that lives in freshwater lakes and streams, as a building block.

There is a protein in its genetic code that covers the membrane with a protective sheath like snake scales. The authors of the work modified this protein in such a way that it builds spatial structures filled with bacterial mass from “scales”.

It turns out a substance in the form of jelly or slime, which itself grows in a given form, like a tree or bone grows.

The growth rate is very high; in about a day, the population of genetically modified microbes increases by at least four orders of magnitude (10,000 times).

The process takes place in water: first, a thin film of bacteria forms on its surface, after which the vessel is constantly shaken to accelerate the growth of the mass. When it reaches the given shapes and sizes, the material sinks to the bottom and no longer grows.

Biologists have created a programmable living matter from bacteria 2
The process of growth of living materials and the resulting samples

Scientists have thus created a number of samples of living matter of various forms and purposes. One of them absorbed cadmium from solution, successfully playing the role of an absorbent.

Another experiment showed that the grown material can be used as a catalyst for biochemical reactions, for example, for the accelerated oxidation of glucose. This opens up the possibility for programmable purification of water bodies from pollution and poisons.

In general, according to researchers, living sensors , medicinal substances, bioelectronic devices and other useful things can be grown from such matter . Or create building materials that can independently restore and maintain a given shape.

A separate plus of the resulting living matter is its stability. The test showed that samples can be stored for weeks in a simple jar on a shelf at room temperature. That is, the transportation of the grown material to its destination does not require special insulating and cooling equipment.

Scientists hope that this will allow programmable living matter to quickly conquer the market, but everyday use is still far away, as the technology needs to be improved. The researchers’ immediate goal is to test whether their approach will work on other bacteria.


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