WASHINGTON: Imagine a shirt that could grow back a sleeve if it rips off or a couch that can grow when you want to rest your feet. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing “living materials” from biological particles that could be used in everyday items.
“We want to leverage the ability of biology. With things such as trees and bone are materials made without human intervention, we want to grow similar materials from the ground up,” Timothy Lu, associate professor at MIT, told ‘Mashable’.
The researchers recently completed a proof of concept that was meant to be a first step towards the creation of ‘living materials’ or cell-based factories for materials.
“We modified E coli bacteria to form bio-films and engineered them to contain artificial genetic programes that allowed us to control the materials they made by adding external chemicals,” Lu said.
“By changing when and where we added these chemicals, we were able to create biofilms that formed different materials,” Lu said. The researchers also designed bacteria that could talk to each other and coordinate the formation of different materials, without human input.
“Using this platform, we made bio-films that could bind to gold nano-particles to conduct electricity or to bind to quantum dots and emit fluorescence,” he added.
“We are still technologically far away from this becoming a reality, but we could see it in the next five to 10 years,” Lu said.
“There are also regulatory issues and society ones too — people might not be quick to adopt something like this. “If we could use live cells to grow the material and then remove those cells from the final product, I think more people would be willing to give it a try,” Lu added.