(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have created new kinds of “living materials” by modifying the basic ingredients of kombucha, a popular tea drink fermented by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
Scientists assure that in the future anyone will be able to grow on the basis of grandmother’s “kombucha” unique materials for a variety of practical needs.
It seems that a special variety of “kombucha”, sometimes referred to as the “mother of kombucha”, can do much more than just produce sour soft drinks. By altering the culture mix, the researchers were able to create engineering living materials (ELM), which can now find all kinds of practical applications, from finding light signals to detecting contaminants in liquids.
What’s more, scientists say that these living materials can be easily prepared at home – the process of caring for them is similar to the process of growing the notorious “mushroom”, which is known in the rest of the world as “kombucha”.
“While we are still far from a future in which humans can cheaply grow their own biological sensors, the new system already allows materials that can be scaled and therefore more likely to find useful applications in the real world,” explains the co-author of the article. biologist Charlie Gilbert of Imperial College London.
To create their ELMs, the researchers experimented with a laboratory yeast strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, combining it with the Komagataeibacter rhaeticus bacterium.
Through trial and error – including finding the right ratio of yeast to bacteria, and experimenting to improve the density of the mushroom mixture – the researchers ultimately managed to create a stable material.
Inside an artificial culture called Syn-SCOBY, the bacteria produce large amounts of cellulose, which acts as a scaffold. Protected by such a shell, S. cerevisiae and its enzymes can perform various (pre-programmed) functions, such as detecting chemicals in pollutants or producing a protein that glows when exposed to blue light.
The new discovery itself testifies to the real possibility of producing advanced, so-called “smart” materials that can be created in a comfortable home environment, instead of resource-intensive production in a special plant.
“Almost anyone can grow living material in their kitchen or pantry,” says Tan. “You don’t need to be an expert in biotechnology. You just need sugar and tea to provide the system with nutrients, and you need a fragment of the Syn-SCOBY culture – it will do the rest.”
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