- [Narrator] The process of making a physical object
from a three-dimensional digital model is nothing new.
These days, 3D printing is everywhere.
Users are constantly coming up with new ways
to utilize this technology to revolutionize a field
or fabrication process.
And now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers
from MIT and elsewhere
have developed a new way to print 3D objects
that can control living organisms in predictable ways.
- We're looking into ways that you can begin to integrate
the tools we now have in genetic engineering
into the processes for digital fabrication.
When we 3D print, we utilize a multi-material 3D printer.
One thing that we're doing differently
is beginning to integrate chemical signals
into the resins that we use.
These chemical signals allow the 3D printed part
to communicate to the cells that live on the surface
of the 3D printer.
And in that way,
the 3D print has a pre-programmed control over the genes
that are expressed on the surface of the 3D printer.
- [Narrator] For their initial proof-of-concept experiments,
the team incorporated various chemicals
into the 3D printing process.
These chemicals then act as signals
to activate certain responses
in biologically engineered microbes,
which are spray-coated onto the printer object.
Once added, the microbes display specific colors
or fluorescence in response to the chemical signals.
These colors, the researchers say,
demonstrate the successful incorporation of the living cells
to the surface of the 3D-printed material
and the cell's activation in response to the chemicals.
- Each color that you see appearing
on the surface of these prints
is actually the product of an enzymatic reaction
which is occurring because a cell has been given the signal
to turn a gene on or off.
What's interesting is anywhere that you see
a color being expressed
could very easily also be any other type
of bio-synthetic product created by a bacteria.
That way, what you have is a new class of material
that acts like a responsive
or almost a pre-programmed intelligent material surface.
- [Narrator] The researchers call this new class of material
hybrid living materials, or HLMs, for short.
The objective is to make a robust design tool
for producing objects
and devices incorporating living biological elements,
made in a way that is as predictable and scalable
as other industrial processes.
The printing platform the team used
allows the material properties of the printed object
to be varied precisely and continuously
between different parts of the structure,
with some sections stiffer and others more flexible.
Some are more absorbent and others liquid-repellent.
Such variations could be used in the design
of biomedical devices that can provide strength and support,
while also being soft and pliable
to provide comfort in places
where they are in contact with the body.
The researchers suggest that useful chemical substances
such as vitamins, antibodies,
or antimicrobial drugs could be integrated
into a wearable interface customized to fit
the physical body and biomarkers of its user.
Or, consider smart packaging that can detect contamination
or environmentally responsive architectural skins
that can respond and adapt
in real-time to environmental cues.