Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) invented a temporary "tattoo" consisting of a genetically engineered living cells. Their prototype is similar to a transparent sticker with a pattern resembling wood. The illustration is divided into several sections containing fluorescent live bacteria that can interact with certain chemical compounds. When the skin under the sticker is exposed to these compounds, it illuminates the corresponding area of the tattoo.
Research and development of stimulo, the brush-reacting materials, which could be turned into smart materials for use in various kinds of electronics, scientists take a very long time. Decades. For example, materials that respond to heat, could be used when creating self-assembling or moving robots, and materials that respond to certain chemicals – for creation of various chemical sensors.
With the development of 3D printing technologies, new methods of production that do not require large expenditures. This method became the common practice to create experimental prototypes in the laboratory. Their use of technology found in the production of stimulo, the brush-reactive materials. However, the team of engineers under the direction of Professor Ho Xuan Qiao from the Massachusetts Institute of technology decided to test whether it is possible to apply the method of 3D printing when using easily obtainable and programmable living cells.
Previous studies have shown that this is at least not suitable mammalian cells. They can't survive in the harsh conditions of the processes of 3D printing, for example, under strong pressure during extrusion of the material or during the UV irradiation used for the bonding structures, which is a common practice to reinforce printed material.
"it Turned out that all of these cells die during the printing process. The fact that mammalian cells are essentially lipid bilayer balls. In General, they are too weak and easily destroyed", — said co-author Hyung Woo Yuk.
Bacterial cells, in turn, have a durable protective shell and is much hardier. In addition, these cells are better compatible with most hydrogel materials, in its composition having water and polymers and are used in various laboratory and practical medical purposes.
Using bacterial cells are genetically programmed to fluorescent reaction in response to exposure of various chemicals, a team from MIT has developed ink consisting of hydrogel, cells, and array of nutrients that support these cells. The inks have a dense structure and allow you to print at a sufficiently high resolution of 30 micrometers (0.03 millimeter). Engineers printed a test pattern on the elastomer sheet, and then glued it to the skin, which was previously applied chemicals.
Within a few hours of contact of the bacteria with the chemical stimulant part of the printed pattern tattoo was highlighted. In addition, scientists have created bacterial cells that are able to communicate with each other and be highlighted when receiving certain signals from other cells. The researchers tested them in a three-dimensional structure, superimposing on each other two printed hydrogel filaments in the layer. Bacteria light up only when in contact with each other and receive communication signals.
"This is the very very distant future, but in the end we want to find the possibility of printing living computing platforms that can be used in wearable electronics", — commented on the UK.
As for the nearest time, the team of researchers is looking for the possibility of application of developed technology in the manufacture of chemical sensors and systems targeted delivery of drugs, which can be programmed to release medications or the same glucose in the body at the right time.
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