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14th of December 2017


MIT Creates a Living Ink Made of Bacteria

MIT Living Ink Bacteria

A team of engineers working at MIT have successfully created a new type of 3D-printed ink that's alive and can react to specific chemicals it comes into contact with by "lighting up." The key to the way in which this new ink works is genetically programmed living cells.

As MIT News reports, the engineers created a mix of hydrogel (water/polymer mix), nutrients, and the living cells to form an ink that can be printed into 3D structures using a 3D printer. Bacteria was chosen because it is a very hardy, with the cell surviving when added to a hydrogel and coping with the forces applied when pushed through a printing nozzle.

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The living cells can be pre-programmed to react to a range of different chemicals. This reaction is demonstrated visually as the cells lighting up. As a test the engineers printed a thin tree-like structure made up of cells in branches, each of which reacts to a different chemical.

The finished hydrogel patch was then placed on the back of a hand that had been smeared with those different chemicals. As you can see in the image above, the living ink reacted to the different chemicals with visual feedback. This breakthrough opens the door to living tattoos that are able to monitor for different chemicals when worn.

With further development MIT says it is possible to have the cells communicate with each other and therefore could eventually be used to form 3D-printed living computer we can wear. For now, the focus is on living sensors we wear as patches and using the ink as a way of easily delivering drugs over time or modernizing surgical implants.

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